The Nature And Nurture Of Love: From Imprinting To Attachment In Cold War America

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The notion that maternal care and love will determine a childs emotional well-being and future personality has become ubiquitous. In countless stories and movies we find that the problems of the protagonistsanything from the fear of romantic commitment to serial killingstem from their troubled relationships with their mothers during childhood. How did we come to hold these views about the determinant power of mother love over an individuals emotional development? And what does this vision of mother love entail for children and mothers?
In The Nature and Nurture of Love, Marga Vicedo examines scientific views about childrens emotional needs and mother love from World War II until the 1970s, paying particular attention to John Bowlbys ethological theory of attachment behavior. Vicedo tracks the development of Bowlbys work as well as the interdisciplinary research that he used to support his theory, including Konrad Lorenzs studies of imprinting in geese, Harry Harlows experiments with monkeys, and Mary Ainsworths observations of children and mothers in Uganda and the United States. Vicedos historical analysis reveals that important psychoanalysts and animal researchers opposed the project of turning emotions into biological instincts. Despite those substantial criticisms, she argues that attachment theory was paramount in turning mother love into a biological need. This shift introduced a new justification for the prescriptive role of biology in human affairs and had profoundand negativeconsequences for mothers and for the valuation of mother love.

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