The meaning and usefulness of the concept of cross-cultural childbirth is questioned in this paper. Intracultural variations within Southern African Black women's experiences of childbirth are utilized to explore the validity of the cross-cultural concept. The question of universality or diversity of birth experiences is discussed. Possible universal elements of birth are suggested while factors determining variations in these experiences are proposed.
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Beverley Chalmers, Ph.D.
Dr. Beverley Chalmers is a professor of psychology at the School of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand, Jan Smuts Avenue, Johannesburg, South Africa. She researches the psychosocial aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and the early stages of parenthood. She is particularly interested in the cross-cultural issues in this field. She is the author of Pregnancy and Parenthood: Heaven or Hell (1984) and African Birth: Childbirth in Cultural Transition (1990). She has also, together with G.J. Hofmeyr, produced a video entitled "Miscarriage: A Crisis Discarded" (University of Witwatersrand, CTV Services, 1989). This article is based upon a paper given at the International Conference on Childbearing and Perinatal Care, Jerusalem, in 1987, and was published as a pamphlet by The Institute for the Study of Man in Africa in 1987.
JOURNAL OF PRENATAL AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH publishes research and clinical articles from the cutting edge of the science of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health. The journal, published quarterly since 1986, is dedicated to the in-depth exploration human reproduction and pregnancy and the mental and emotional development of the unborn and newborn child.