Pre- and Perinatal Anthropology: A Selective Review
Publication Date:May 1989
1. We wish to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Marilyn McKnight and Grier Owen who collected and recorded many of the library materials upon which this study is based. Reading their papers and having lengthy discussions with them helped to form the approach taken in this review. The materials cited herein are now lodged in the more extensive Pre- and Perinatal Anthropology Archives, Department of Sociology-Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1S 5B6. The PPAA is an ongoing literature compiling project that will make available an updated bibliography of cross-cultural materials upon receipt of five dollars and a SASE. Please contact the author. We would also like to thank Tom Verny for the inspiration and encouragement he has given this project over a number of years.
2. There are considerable methodological differences between anthropology and crosscultural psychology. The former tends to be more naturalistic, depending upon participant observation for its data, while the latter tends to be more experimental, depending upon testing for its data (see Edgerton 1974). As Schwartz (1981) notes, anthropology often ignores childhood in culture, while cross-cultural psychology often ignores the culture in children. For a clearcut example of the importance of the difference, compare Kilbride and Kilbride's (1983) account of mother-infant interaction among the Ganda of East Africa with Ainsworth's (1967a) classic account, the former being anthropologists and the latter a cross-cultural psychologist.
3. In the interests of space, we take as axiomatic to our project the view of pre- and perinatal consciousness expressed by Verny (1981, 1987), Chamberlain (1983, in Verny 1987), and Laughlin (1985), and choose cross-cultural materials accordingly. Because of this view, and because of the specific orientation of this journal, certain ethnographic materials relevant to the cross-cultural study of reproduction will not be covered due to the fact that they may not relate to conditions directly influencing the experiences and psychology of the living pre- and perinatal human being. These topics nonetheless may be of interest to some scholars, so we will list a few sources that will guide them into the relevant literature. These topics include: age, aging and culture (Kertzer & Keith 1984), reproductive rituals (Paige & Paige 1981), demographic patterns influencing reproduction (Polgar 1975), population problems and control (Marshall, Morris & Polgar 1972), prenatal selection pressures and evolution (Fantel 1978), social attitudes towards and cosmological beliefs about fertility (Lorimer 1954, Meade & Singh 1973, O'Brian 1981, Tiffany & Adams 1985), adoption (Goody 1976), infanticide and child mortality (Scrimshaw 1978, Balikci 1967, Granzberg 1973, Goody 1976, Hausfater & Hrdy 1984), abortion and birth control (Devereux 1955,1967, Douglas 1966, Goody 1976, Nurge in Raphael 1975), the economics and politics of reproduction (Barry, Child & Bacon in Ford 1967, Goody 1976, Raphael 1975), barrenness (Ebin in MacCormack 1982), fertility and fertility regulation (Ayres in Ford 1967, Lorimer 1954, Newman 1985), the evolutionary functions of parenting, infancy and early birth (Trinkaus 1984, Meyr 1970, Omenn & Motulsky 1972, Zihlman in Miller & Newman 1978), menstrual taboos (Stephens, Young & Bacdayan articles in Ford 1967), infancy and parenthood among non-human primates (Katz and Konner 1981, Poirier in Raphael 1975, McKenna 1977), pregnancy and birth among early hominids (Trinkaus 1984), and the couvade (i.e., the curious tendencies of males to take on maternal behaviors prior to or just after birth, or to mimic the birth process itself; Dawson 1929, Heggenhougen 1980, Kupferer 1965). Although some of these issues may have an influence upon the pre- and perinatal life of a living child (eg., infanticide may affect the psychology of surviving twins, parents and other siblings), their inclusion in our discussion would make this paper too long.
4. The Human Relations Area Files is essentially a vast archive of primary ethnographic materials filed by culture and coded by topic. The HRAF are found in many libraries and constitutes the largest sample of cultures with such a wealth of materials available. The codes for finding materials in the files relevant to infancy and early childhood are discussed in Barry and Paxson (1971).
5. It seems particularly important to develop adequate coverage of the first day of postpartum life in coming to understand the cultural factors that influence motherinfant bonding (Klaus et al. 1970, Schreiber 1977). Feiring and Lewis (in Field et al. 1981) have offered a useful checklist of items that should be researched in the area of mother-infant interaction, and Ford (1964) presents a general guide to issues relevant to an ethnography of human reproduction.
6. Additional studies of relevance, but not surveyed in detail, are Aberle (1967) on the Hopi, Chisholm (1981) on the Navajo, Dixon et al. (1981) on the Gusii, Fock in Ford (1967) on South American birth, Gray (1982) on the Enga, Hicks (1976) on the Tetum, Kitzinger (1982) on Jamaica, Meldrum (1984) on Ibadan, and Midoriotaki et al. (1986) on Japan.
7. Ainsworth (1967b) has suggested a range of indicators of mother-infant attachment to be used cross-culturally.
8. Other readings of interest covering cognitive studies in anthropology may be found in Tyler (1969) and Cole et al. (1971).
9. Other sources providing theoretical discussions of interest to pre- and perinatal psychology include: Super (1980, 1981a, 1981b) who discusses cognitive development and infancy; Montagu (1964, 1965) who places the human pre- and perinatal experience in evolutionary and biological perspective, and (1970) who discusses prenatal life and birth trauma from a cultural perspective; Eliade (1965) who discusses the cosmological significance of womb and birth; Chodorow (1974) who uses object-relations theory to understand the development of gender identity; B. Whiting (1980) who has come to view culture as a "provider of settings" (or ethos) within which infant development occurs; Harkness and Kilbride (1983) and Harkness and Super (1983) who discuss the socialization of affect in childhood (see also Super and Harkness 1982a); Konner (1981) who advocates an ecological and natural selection model as a context for infant development (see also Levine 1977, Chisholm 1980); Laughlin (1985) who presents a neurophenomenological explanation of cosmological gender attributions based upon pre- and perinatal experience; Barry, Bacon and Child (1957) who examine sex differences in socialization crossculturally; Stewart and Erickson (1977) who discuss theory and research in the sociology of birth; Jordan (1978) who examines features in birth practices that may be used in cross-cultural comparison within a biosocial framework; Kitzinger (1978) who discusses motherhood cross-culturally; and O'Brian (1981) who offers a feminist critique of the relationship between the social position of women and the biological process of fertility.
10. Additional discussion of infant-adult communication in the ethnographic literature-usually centering on babytalk-may be found in Dil (1975) for the Bengali of India, Kelkar (1964) for the Marathi of India, Goldman (1987) for the Huli of New Guinea, Casagrande (1948) for the Comanche, Sorenson (in Bullowa 1979) for the Fore of New Guinea, Bynon (in Snow and Ferguson 1977) on the Berber, RukeDravina (in Snow and Ferguson 1977) on Latvian, Ferguson (1956) on Arabic, Crawford (1970, 1978) on Cocopa (a Yuman language from Arizona and Mexico), Oswalt (1976) on the Pomo, Kess and Kess (1986) on the Nootka, Meegaskumbura (1980) on Sinhala, and Austerlitz (1956) on the Gilyak. For a society in which caretakers use no babytalk per se, but do interact vocally with newborns and infants, see Schieffelin (1979: 85) on the Kaluli of New Guinea.
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Address correspondence and reprint requests to Charles D. Laughlin, Jr., Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, Room B570, Loeb Building, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6.