Thursday, September 27, 2007

Continuum Concept

The continuum concept is the idea that in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings — especially babies — require the kind of experience to which our species adapted during the long process of our evolution. For an infant, these include such experiences as constant physical contact with her/his mother (or another familiar caregiver as needed) from birth; sleeping in her/his parents' bed, in constant physical contact, until s/he leaves of her/his own volition (often about two years); breastfeeding "on cue" — nursing in response to her/his own body's signals; being constantly carried in arms or otherwise in contact with someone, usually her/his mother, and allowed to observe (or nurse, or sleep) while the person carrying her/him goes about his or her business — until the infant begins creeping, then crawling on her/his own impulse, usually at six to eight months; having caregivers immediately respond to her/his signals (squirming, crying, etc.), without judgment, displeasure, or invalidation of her/his needs, yet showing no undue concern nor making her/him the constant center of attention; sensing (and fulfilling) her/his elders' expectations that s/he is innately social and cooperative and has strong self-preservation instincts, and that s/he is welcome and worthy.

In contrast, a baby subjected to modern Western childbirth and child-care practices often experiences traumatic separation from her/his mother at birth due to medical intervention and placement in maternity wards, in physical isolation except for the sound of other crying newborns, with the majority of male babies further traumatized by medically unnecessary circumcision surgery; at home, sleeping alone and isolated, often after "crying her/himself to sleep"; scheduled feeding, with her/his natural nursing impulses often ignored or "pacified"; being excluded and separated from normal adult activities, relegated for hours on end to a nursery, crib or playpen where s/he is inadequately stimulated by toys and other inanimate objects; caregivers often ignoring, discouraging, belittling or even punishing her/him when he cries or otherwise signals her/his needs; or else responding with excessive concern and anxiety, making her/him the center of attention; sensing (and conforming to) her/his caregivers' expectations that s/he is incapable of self-preservation, is innately antisocial, and cannot learn correct behavior without strict controls, threats and a variety of manipulative "parenting techniques" that undermine her/his exquisitely evolved learning process.

Evolution has not prepared the human infant for this kind of experience. S/He cannot comprehend why her/his desperate cries for the fulfillment of her/his innate expectations go unanswered, and s/he develops a sense of wrongness and shame about her/himself and her/his desires. If, however, her/his continuum expectations are fulfilled — precisely at first, with more variation possible as s/he matures — s/he will exhibit a natural state of self-assuredness, well-being and joy. Infants whose continuum needs are fulfilled during the early, in-arms phase grow up to have greater self-esteem and become more independent than those whose cries go unanswered for fear of "spoiling" them or making them too dependent.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home