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The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost

(Classics in Child Development)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,564 ratings  ·  268 reviews
A landmark treatise on how humanity lives versus how we should, what we've lost with our "progress," and how we can reclaim our true nature
Jean Liedloff, an American writer, spent two and a half years in the South American jungle living with Stone Age Indians. The experience demolished her Western preconceptions of how we should live and led her to a radically different vi
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 22nd 1986 by Da Capo Press (first published January 28th 1975)
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Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it
I had high expectations for this book, as it is an oft-mentioned title in Attachment Parenting circles and has its own following as a parenting style in and of itself. (Continuum Concept parenting and Attachment Parenting are not the same thing, but there is some overlap.) Though the book does contain many intriguing ideas, I found myself overall quite disappointed.

The book, written in 1975 (with an introduction added in 1985), is based on the author's experiences spending extended time with an
Apr 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
What is a more perfect picture in this world than a contented baby in loving parent arms? Leidloff claim that this is the place to be if you are an infant; that the modern traditions of swings, cribs, playpens, and other child-holding-devices go against our nature and evolution, and can do great damage to a person by denying an infant’s automatic expectations.

I agree with much of what she says. Obviously, babies are made to be held. We are the only primates that willing sets our young down for (
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: my-books
I first read this book seven years ago, as a new mom, and just reread it for book group. First of all, I am appalled at the state of mind I must have been in when I first read it, cause boy did I swallow it hook, line, and sinker. My brain must have been in a hormone-induced state of mush. I mean, "evidence" suggests that homosexuality may be caused by non-continuum care. I didn't even notice this before! Or how awesome it is that the girls' in the indigenous cultures greatest joy stems from the ...more
May 08, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book was a very bad read. So bad it belongs in it's own 'so bad it's good' category - I laughed out loud at some bits. Here (in my opinion) is why:
1. The evidence presented for the book's main premise - that western traditions of raising children are damaging and a primary cause of drug abuse, homosexuality, social isolation and all manner of other societal evils - is hardly scientific. The author's singular observation of a south American tribe in the jungle suffices.
2. Dare you bring a ch
Dec 12, 2007 rated it it was ok
Yowza. I started this book a few months ago, then picked it up again last weekend. What timing! I just read Weissbluth's HSHHC, and my husband and I are in the midst of transitioning our infant daughter to sleep in her crib.

So with that in mind ... this book made me cry. Liedloff's chapter on The Beginning of Life -- the first experiences and feelings that a baby has when she's not in her mother's arms -- my gawd, how excruciatingly painful was that? I understand that she wants to make a point,
I really enjoyed this book, for the first half. It was interesting to read about the observations between western culture and the indian tribe's culture, but here it ends... She starts talking about homosexuality as being a reaction to a cruel father or a mincing mother... WTH. That small niggling in the back of my mind that had been whispering throughout the book came out screaming during that passage (yes pun intended), WHAT ARE YOUR CREDENTIALS TO BACK THIS UP?

Just because much of the book co
Lisa C
Oct 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, esp parents
Recommended to Lisa by: website
Shelves: parenting
Every parent/parent to be should read this book. Very insightful and compelling. I learned so much about why I am the way I am, and why other people are the way they are. I feel it has set me on a path towards healing, and I am relieved to know that I can help prevent my child from being a victim of our culture. The basic idea of the continuum concept is that there is a natural way that we are all meant to develop, though civilized life has torn us away from it. When an infant doesn't get what h ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
*If you are interested in this subject (how hunter-gatherers parent) I recommend Hunter-Gather Childhoods: Evolutionary, Developmental and Cultural Perspectives and The Lifeways of Hunter Gatherers.

*If you are interested in different ways children can be raised, Preschool in Three Cultures is interesting. As is Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood.

*Also it is interesting to note that many aspects of hunter-gatherer parenting are similar to aspects of parenting in low socio-economic circ
Jul 11, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was very interesting, and definitely worth reading if you have/are going to have a baby. Take the best and leave the rest. The author spent some years with a tribe of Brazilian natives, and makes all of her conclusions based on her observations there. She says that packing your baby around in a baby carrier, and co-sleeping, and basically keeping baby near you at all times, meets a psychological need that both mother and baby have to be close to each other; she says it eliminates postp ...more
Elisa Parhad
Jul 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
I was expecting much more from this book. While some interesting insights are offered about parenting across cultures, the author's hypotheses are hugely flawed. Backed by very little, if any, science, the author bases a "new" theory of child care to be used by Western parents on her observation of the Yequanna tribe in a South American jungle. She blames homosexuality, drug abuse, fussy babies, loneliness, isolation, lack of independence, and sadness of the Western world on our childrens' lack ...more
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you have a baby or are going to have a baby, I consider this mandatory reading. Actually, whether or not you're having a baby, I think this is a very interesting read. The way we become parents and raise babies in our culture is historically quite strange and I think we would do ourselves all some good if we took some of the principles of this book to heart. Here's a quote:

"It is no secret that the 'experts' have not discovered how to live satisfactorily, but the more they fail, the more they
Raederle Phoenix
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most influential books I've ever read. The friend who gave it to me said, "This was the book that turned me into a thinking person."

Instead of speculating about what does or doesn't work for children based on research or educated guesses, this books takes us into the lives of a highly successful culture in South America that actually thrives at making people happy, connected and energetic.
Nov 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Entirely changed the way I view parenting.
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Liedloff is often called the mother of attachment parenting, and lots of parents I trust recommended this book to me. Her basic premise can very easily be summed up: Babies should be carried “in arms” as much as possible while the mother (or other parent) goes about her daily life until baby is able to crawl and explore their world on their own. Fine. I can agree to this. Out of this very simple concept, Liedloff, who, far as I can tell, has no anthropological training aside from the fact that s ...more
Kristi Weyland
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
When keeping in mind that the author is neither a parent or an anthropologist, this book gives an incredibly different, and much needed point of view on baby-rearing. A must-read by any parent, whether you agree 100% or not, everyone with an intent to raise a child should give this book a read in order to see another perspective. The insights in this book are invaluable when forging your own parental style, one that frees the mother to pursue her own needs while at the same time giving the baby ...more
Richard Reese
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Jean Liedloff was a New Yorker who went to Europe and pursued modeling and journalism work. She met some Italians who were leaving for the jungles of Venezuela to hunt for diamonds. On a whim, she joined their expedition. Over the course of five expeditions, she spent two and a half years living with Stone Age people. As she bounced back and forth between the modern world and wild freedom, she became acutely aware of the staggering differences between the two ways of life.

The natives were “the
This book is about the happy social lives of the Yequana, a Stone Age tribe in the Venezuelan jungle, and the importance of what the author calls "the in-arms" experience. "In-arms" means quite simply that a mother or care-giver carry a baby from the moment it is born until the baby learns to creep, crawl and otherwise seek independence from his mother. Liedloff's premise is that babies who are unconditionally and constantly held and who participate, albeit passively from their mother's arms, in ...more
Zoe Zuniga
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: consciousness
Once you read this book a lot of things about what we thought we knew about "human nature" become clear. It gives you hope for the species and it gives you something to do in regard to any mothers and infants you know right now.

I have heard vague stirrings about how babies should be kept in a sling, and have known that normal babies slept with the parents during most of human history but Liedloff spells out the rest of it so clearly and shows how this has affected our mental and physical and spi
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed reading this book. I've always been interested in evolution and the well being of our concious self and bodies through understanding evolution. Jean Liedloff lived with Stone Age Indians in South America for 3 years and studyed the way they raised their children and the effects this had on the childrens development. Not having chlidren myself I obviously have a different point of view, but I do belive we are flawed in some of our theorys about how we raise our children. For exam ...more
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
While I can understand how other reviewers might see Liedoff's writing as uncited, I do believe as a first-time mom that this book helped me trust the instincts knew I had. We live in a culture that in some aspects pits mother against baby, and tells us that a "good" baby is well trained. I never felt this to be true, even though my baby was an incredibly high-needs baby (from my perspective). Regardless, I never withheld touch, love, milk, or affection. And although I was exhausted most of the ...more
Jean Liedloff’s book “The Continuum Concept” offers westerners a look at what the lives of contented and functional human beings look like. It offers much more, as well. The author refers to her time spent with Indians living in the Venezuelan rainforest as “unlearning,” principally because the life of the people she found herself among was so clearly superior in every way to what she’s known. They didn’t have a concept for “work,” using a corruption of the Spanish “trabajar” when they had to co ...more
Prabhleen Kaur
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic read about Jean’s observations of the babies and their relationship with their mothers in the extraordinary setting of jungles. The Yek’uana or Yequana women clearly raise their children with more in line with evolutionary sense than the modern couple. Without giving away much, I would recommend this to anyone trying to find answers to their behaviours, understanding others around them and for those who wish to improve their parenting in the future. Not all of what Yequana do ca ...more
Frank Jude
I would so love to be able to give this book a higher star-rating, but.... for a book published originally in 1975, it's written in such a hyperbolic, stilted style that I found it a chore to read, even though I endorse so much of her thinking! I was surprised to find photos of her taken of Liedloff in the 70s, and she was quite young at the time! So why the almost Victorian rhetoric?

The "Continuum Concept" pretty much is what is now referred to as "Attachment Parenting." That such child-rearing
I recommend this though any insight into myself personally cannot be accurately gained without talking to me about it.

That said, Liedloff in her travels as a not anthropologist encountered and spent time with some tribal groups, noticed how the adults (and all) appeared to be smiling and calm and non-violent/appropriately aggressive etc.

She wonders why & proceeds to attend closely to the general/specific interactions between the older people with the younger or infant people.

Read it to know more
Sep 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
The author's anecdotal description of the "noble savage" Yequana tribe is truly bizarre. After living with them, she reports that babies handle knives by the blade without slicing themselves. Children play at archery without any safety rules without suffering accidents--except for the one time a boy shot his brother in the stomach, but it was only a flesh wound--and they canoe alone without drowning. Parents never get frustrated by their screaming kids or worried about what their kids are up to. ...more
Akhil Jain
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
My fav quotes (not a review):
-Page 11 |
"A child seeks information about what is done and not done, so if he breaks a plate he needs to see some anger or sadness at its destruction but not a withdrawal of esteem for him – as though he were not also angry or sad at having let it slip and resolving on his own initiative to be more careful."
-Page 34 |
"The design of each individual was a reflection of the experience it expected to encounter. The experience it could tolerate was defined by the circums
Aug 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
If you’re going to have a baby this is a must read. Mainly because it gives you a different perspective of how to bring up your child (the Yequana Indian tribe), quite different from our Western ways. But be aware, if you’re already a parent, this book might make cry or become a little depressed, specially the chapter The Beginning of Life. Fortunately, I was already in line with some ideas of this book.
I have, however, two main concerns regarding Ms. Liedloff’s ideas: 1. The book isn’t strongly
Sep 27, 2010 rated it liked it
3 stars seems a low rating for this book, but I can't say I REALLY liked it although I definitely liked the book. I wish that her more far-fetched theories had been edited out and that her more profitable ones were elaborated on. There is a mix of somewhat-rubbish along with bursts of dazzling insight.
A very important read for parents. Not so much a purely scientific look at human development but an honest expression of an experience the author had that makes a good point, allowing us to step o
This book influenced my life negatively. As an impressionable expectant mother I lapped it up. Sure, it challenges accepted views of parenting in the Western world and that needs doing, but it turned into a kind of tyranny. We don't have grandmothers and aunties and a whole tribe of people to assist with the childrearing, and we have to go out to work. Trying to carry my child without putting him down quickly wore me out!
Tammy Mabra
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
To me, the indigenous practice of keeping the baby close after birth and not leaving your baby to cry feels very intuitive. So, it was nice to read a book that supported and culturally explores what feels intuitive to me. The person who loaned it to me had expressed that this book was ground-breaking for him, not so much for me, more confirmation than anything.
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Jean Liedloff was an American author, born in New York, and best known for her 1975 book The Continuum Concept. She is the aunt of writer Janet Hobhouse, and is represented by the character Constance in Hobhouse's book "The Furies."

Born in New York City in 1926, as a teenager she attended the Drew Seminary for Young Women and began studying at Cornell University, but began her expeditions before s

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