How our culture harms women, infants, and society

Dr Peter Cook

Mothering Denied is an insightful look at the real importance and the value of mothers. Dr Peter Cook has graciously allowed us and others to make this freely available. Please download your own copy and feel free to print it out. The foreword below by Dr Steve Biddulph tells the story well.

Every era in human history has naturally assumed itself to be the most modern, progressive, and advanced. There is no deeper myth in our history than the myth of progress, the idea that things get better. It may well be our most dearly-held illusion.

Just recently, with the growth of technologies that can look inside the living brain, and video cameras that can watch the tiny movements and gestures of mothers and infants, we have realized that in our basic assumptions of Western industrial life, we were terribly wrong about something very important. We thought that minding babies was a casual, inconsequential thing that could be left to underpaid teenagers, or done in bulk with one person to five babies or ten toddlers, without any problem.

It now appears that mother-baby interaction, in the first year especially, is the very foundation of human emotions and intelligence. In the most essential terms, love grows the brain. The capacities for what make us most human—empathy, co-operation, intimacy, the fine timing and sensitivity that makes a human being charismatic, loving, and self-assured— are passed from mother to baby, especially if that mother is herself possessed of these qualities, and supported and cared for, so that she can bring herself to enjoy and focus on the task.

Just as we were wrong, in our industrial culture, about almost everything related to sustainable and happy living on this earth, we were wrong about childhood. It is entirely possible that in our civilisation we have been getting worse, as parents, for many hundreds of years. Of course these are dramatic, sweeping overstatements. But the trends are there. Peter Cook is a doctor who has specialised in psychiatry and has been working in the field of child and family mental health for decades. In this book he has created something of great value. He summarises much research, making it accessible to those who wish to know more, as he draws on over half a century of thinking and learning about human infants and their mothers and fathers.

I’d like to say read and enjoy, but it’s more a case of read and weep. Or better still, read this body of work to find confirmation and a spur to put love back at the top of the list for building a human race that is still here in a century’s time; because if we don’t learn to love our babies, our earth, and each other, very fast, we will disappear. It has already begun, and there isn’t a moment to lose.

Steve Biddulph
Psychologist and author, Raising Babies