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The Continuum Concept

In Search of Happiness Lost

by Jean Liedloff

172 pages, paperback, Addison Wesley, 1986

After five visits to the Yequana of the Amazon jungle in South America, Jean Liedloff wrote a book about her belief that the mental, emotional and physical vitality of the Yequana was due to their child rearing practices. She observed that the Yequana, unlike most Western mothers, were in constant physical contact with their babies until the babies started moving around on their own. By day mothers carried their babies in slings. This way the baby had access to the breast and could nurse at will. By night each family shared a single sleeping place, allowing the baby's attachment to the mother to proceed uninterrupted.

Liedloff noticed that the babies were not the center of their mothers' attention. The mothers would stop and lovingly address the baby's signals; otherwise they went about tending to household, village and social needs, and the infant was simply along for the ride. She noted, too, that Yequana parents and other adults didn't initiate contact or activity with their children after babyhood, but were readily available when the children needed them. Children spent most of their time with their peers, as did the adults with theirs. Because Yequana parents placed such great faith in a child's instinct for self- preservation, the children enjoyed a great deal of freedom and displayed a corresponding level of autonomous functioning rarely seen in children in the West.

She decided to call her book The Continuum Concept, to indicate that the children of the Yequana were happy, competent and self-assured because the Yequana were still in touch with their "continuum," or the evolutionary knowledge, with which all humans are born, of the way human beings are supposed to live.

The Continuum Concept, which is in its twenty-sixth printing, has been translated from its original English version into numerous other languages and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies throughout the world.

Praise for The Continuum Concept

“If the world could be saved by a book, this just might be the book.”--John Holt

About Jean Liedloff

Quotes from The Continuum Concept

"Another obstacle to the continuum in our way of life is our view that we own our children and consequently have the right to treat them any way we choose, short of battering or killing them. They have no legal right not to be tortured by longing for their mothers and left to scream their agony unheeded. The fact that they are human and capable of suffering does not give them any legal rights, as it does adults made to suffer cruelties by other adults. The fact that their torment in infancy also prejudices their ability to enjoy the rest of their lives and is, therefore, immeasurable injury done them, does not help their legal position.

"Babies cannot articulate complaints. They cannot go to an authority and protest. They cannot even connect the agony they have endured with its cause; they are happy to see their mother when she at last arrives.

"In our society, rights are granted not because one suffers injury but because one complains of it. Only the most rudimentary rights are accorded animals, and in very few countries. Likewise, indigenous primitives, who have no medium through which to complain, ae given none of the rights their articulate conquerors grant one another.

"Custom has left the treatment of infants to maternal discretion. But should every mother be free to neglect her child, to slap him for crying, to feed him when she wants, not when he wants, to leave him suffering alone in a room for hours, days, months, when it is his very nature to be in the midst of life?

"The societies for the prevention of cruelty to babies and children concern themselves only with the grossest sort of abuse. Our society must be helped to see the gravity of the crime against infants that is today considered normal treatment.

. . .

"Without waiting to change society at all, we can behave correctly toward our infants, and give them a sound personal base from which to deal with whatever situations they meet.

"Instead of depriving them so that they have only one hand with which to cope with the outside world, while the other is busy with inner conflicts, we can set them on their feet with both hands ready to take on outside problems."

Table of Contents of The Continuum Concept

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