Synopses & Reviews
We are tempted to think of maternal instinct as a quality a woman has or lacks. But the belief that mothers instinctively nurture their offspring--one of the West's most cherished ideals and a view widely accepted even in scientific circles--has become increasingly controversial. Mother Nature presents a radical new way of understanding how mothers act and why, and how this new understanding is changing the way scientists think about how evolution works.
Drawing on anthropology, history, literature, developmental psychology, and animal behavior, Sarah Hrdy examines the distinct biological and genetic elements that constitute maternal instinct. She strips away the biases implicit in conventional stereotypes of female nature to give us very different and provocative perspectives on maternal ambivalence, the links between maturity and ambition, mother love and sexual love, and why age-old tensions between the sexes persist--and are being played out today in efforts to control women's reproductive choices.
Combining decades of research with her own experience as a mother, Hrdy makes clear in this remarkable book what it means--from a historical and evolutionary perspective--to be a mother and explains how this knowledge has transformed our understanding of human development and behavior.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 603-690) and index.
About the Author
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California at Davis and a fellow of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The author of three previous books, including The Woman That Never Evolved, she lives in northern California.
Table of Contents
Motherhood as a minefield -- A new view of mothers -- Underlying mysterires of development -- Unimaginable variation -- The variable environments of evolutionary relevance -- The Milky Way -- From here to maternity -- Family planning primate-style -- Three men and a baby -- The optimal number of fathers -- Who cared? -- Unnatural mothers -- Daughters or sons? It all depends -- Old tradeoffs, new contexts -- Born to attach -- Meeting the eyes of love -- "Secure from what?" or "Secure from whom?" -- Empowering the embryo -- Why be adorable? -- How to be "an infant worth rearing" -- A matter of fat -- On human bondage -- Alternate paths of development -- Devising better lullabies.