ABSTRACT: Modern pre- and perinatal psychology recognizes that the period of life immediately after birth is a significant one for the future development of the human being. This paper surveys the many ways that cultures around the world interpret the puerperium, and the ways they treat the mother and infant and structure mother-infant interaction during this vulnerable period. Both holocultural, statistical summaries and individual case studies are reported, covering such issues as infant feeding patterns, mother-infant separation, isolation of mother and infant from the community, acceptance and rejection of the infant, the postpartum sex taboo and other restrictions.
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Charles D. Laughlin, Ph.D.
Charles D. Laughlin, Ph.D., is a professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada K1S 5B6. He has done ethnographic fieldwork among East African pastoralists, Tibetan lamas in Nepal and India, and Navajo Indians in the American Southwest. He is co-author of Biogenetic Structuralism, The Spectrum of Ritual, Extinction and Survival in Human Populations, Science As Cognitive Process, and Brain, Symbol and Experience. He is the editor of the Neuroanthropology Network Newsletter and the Pre- and Peri-Natal Psychology Journal. The author wishes to thank Dr. David Chamberlain for his kind comments and suggestions. Address correspondence to the author at Department of Sociology-Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada K1S 5B6.