Why Motherhood Exists

Book Review by Gwydion M. Williams

Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection by D. Blum

This is about a scientist who vindicated the common-sense approach that mothers had always taken to babies, by showing that a monkey preferred a soft mother-doll to a mother-doll with milk. And also unexpectedly discovering that monkeys raised that way could not function as normal monkeys. All of this was a corrective to psychologists of the day who preferred to work with rats and who thought that new-born babies were better off isolated from their mothers.

There’s a fascinating small tale about an early monkey-baby who was given a mother-doll with no face. When later they later tried to give it a face, the baby was horrified. This matches the earlier observations about how British children evacuated from cities to safe homes in the country were mostly miserable despite homes that were loving and in many ways better than they had come from.

It’s also explained how rat-mothers and rat-babies bond strongly, but any mother or baby will do, baby rats can be added or removed without disturbing the family structure.

There’s lots of other interesting stuff, but read the book and find out for yourself.

Posted as an Amazon book review in 2004.

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