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CureZone > Books > The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development) by Jean Liedloff

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development)
by Jean Liedloff [edit]

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development)
********** 10 Stars!
Price: US$ 11.55, Available worldwide on
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ISBN: 0201050714


A treasure chest of parenting wisdom, April 5, 2000
Reviewer: Laura Arana from GA, USA
A friend told me that this book picks up where Spiritual Midwifery leaves off. So, I read it while I was pregnant. Where the former book completely changed the way I view childbirth, Continuum Concept radically altered my view of childrearing. I knew I wanted to parent my child in a way that was very different from how I had been raised, but I wasn't sure just what to do. This book taught me to trust my heart and intuition. It taught me to know that if I listen to my son and learn from him as much as I teach him, then he will grow up strong and secure and loving, despite this crazy world. Her observations of the indigenous family structure were profoundly insightful, showing us that, sadly, we have lost a great deal in our material culture. True, there are many books related to parenting out there, but I encourage all parents to read this one. I have given a copy to every pregnant friend for almost 10 years now, and everyone has loved it and passed it on. Few investments are this worthy.

How to raise your child in harmony with the matrix of life, December 17, 2003
Reviewer: dreamtracker (see more about me) from Dunkirk, NY USA
Liedloff's "continuum concept" is a description of the development of human life: humans, like all other life forms, exist within a continuum of nature, and we survive and thrive best when we behave in ways closest to our natural heritage. The Continuum Concept is an application of this basic idea to childhood development and to human psychological development, based on ideas that Liedloff developed while she lived with a group of South American Indians called the Yequana. She found that their children matured easily and were independent and secure in themselves and in their relationships with others. She saw no strife or real unhappiness in the Yequana, despite the primitive quality of their existence.

This book contains many wonderful insights about human development. The author proposes that many in Western culture are touch-deprived in infancy - a critical period she calls the "in-arms phase" - and that this deficit carries over into adulthood, in the form of the yearning for love, the need for other forms of security like money and possessions, etc. In essence, because our childhood was robbed of love and security, we seek it for the rest of our lives.

The solution is to do as the Yequana: to hold and be with our babies all of the time; to be passive but available agents, giving the infants the independence and self-responsibility to explore, but with a secure parental base as anchor. Liedloff speaks of the harmony of the Yequana people, their lack of competition, their tremendous ease with the world, their sense of humor with each other, their lack of peer pressure or expectation.

Some of the auxiliary ideas are interesting but not as well-founded. I disagreed particularly with her idea that homosexuality was one consequence of a lack of love; that's one idea that could bear updating (this book was written in the 1970's). She tends to overgeneralize or exaggerate a little bit when she speculates on how exactly the continuum concept impacts people in our society or in the Yequana's. The writing is simple and flows easily, but because of this and because of some of the generalizations, it begs for more detail and perhaps more backing, if not through experimental research or correlation with other cultures, then at least with examples and anecdotes. Unfortunately there are fewer than I would like.

Overall, though, this book introduced me to some profound ideas I'd never encountered before. This is definitely one book I plan to refer to when I start raising children.

The Yequana Concept, December 14, 2003
Reviewer: angry_bear (see more about me) from Portland, Oregon
With this book, Liedloff offers many penetrating insights into child development. It is a profound work that should be read by everyone living inside Western Civilization. However the book does not not come without a few problems. For starters, Liedloff fails to make clear the debt she owes to the Yequana Indians from whom she gleaned the "continuum concept." To recognize this debt, the book might better have been titled "The Yequana Concept."

Similarly, the original intent and purpose of Liedloff's foray into the South American rainforest is horribly suspect. She went there to discover and plunder diamonds. This is not to discount the knowledge and wisdom she gleaned from the Yequana, but it does display Liedlof's ignorance concerning native land and resource rights, not to mention what possible affect diamond poachers like herself might have on local cultures. These issues never seemed to have entered her mind.

Finally, the actual content of the book itself is often repetitive and over-simplified. Having recognized that, unlike Westerners, Yequana are a happy, well-rounded, neurosis-free people, Liedloff asks why. Her answer, that all Yequana babies experience 24-hour in-arm care from their mothers, is insightful, but partial and lacking. Clearly, Westerns have a lot to learn from the Yequana about childcare, but I believe it takes a lot more than in-arms care to produce a happy, healthy society. The success of the Yequana does not hinge on one variable. To understand their success, we must look at the total culture and its environment.

Unlike Westerners, the Yequana still live within the bounds of and draw support from Mother Nature, via the surrounding rainforest. Westerners, on the other hand, grow up in concrete jungles, divorced from the living, biological world. Nor do Yequana have to endure the relentless nine-to-five, junk food, population pressure, or any of the other ills of modern civilization. Moreover, although Liedloff never mentions this, the Yequana are by no means unique. All indigenous cultures are sustainable and remarkably free of neurosis.

Before coming into contact with West, every indigenous tribe enjoyed high standards of health, wealth, happiness and security - standards which we so-called "civilized" people continually strive for but fail to achieve. If you are interested in learning more about non-Western cultures and their success, there are a number of authors I can recommend, such as John H. Bodley (Victims of Progress, Cultural Anthropology, Power of Scale, etc), Chellis Glendinng (My Name is Chellis), Daniel Quinn (Ishmael, the Story of B), and Robert Wolff (Original Wisdom). All of these authors and their works come highly recommended.

A great book, but don't stop here.

Possibly the only parenting book you will ever need, September 23, 2003
Reviewer: A reader from Bronx, NY United States
While pregnant with my first child, I had the extraordinary good fortune of running across the Continuum Concept on a shelf at the public library. Initially, I was skeptical about the seemingly extreme, inflexible advice. And ever since, I've felt a little embarrassed about associating myself with Liedloff's anthropological approach. I'm sympathetic to criticisms along these lines.

However, The Continuum Concept is neither a parenting book nor a work of scholarship. Its power lies outside the details of the advice and the anthropology. Liedloff's narrative introduces the possibility of finding within radical difference a new freedom to act in and to interpret our own lives. This in itself is worth reading for, even if you go on to decide, say, that early body contact is not a major factor in human happiness.

For parents, the Continuum Concept also has unique practical value. To my knowledge, Liedloff is the only writer to clearly articulate the idea that physical contact (carrying, nursing) with minimal direct attention (e.g. eye contact, bouncing, focusing on baby while suspending other activities) -- the opposite of the more familiar western pattern of a mother cooing at a baby who is lying in a carseat or bassinet -- is the ideal way of meeting the needs of a young baby. Liedloff's ideas about energy discharge and the sturdiness of the newborn also amount to a practical possibility most western parents would neither witness nor hear about anywhere else. Certainly, Liedloff's view that parents' adult life can and should go on relatively unimpeded (without neglect!) in the presence of children of all ages is almost unheard of in a culture that often imagines difficulty and sacrifice as normative ideals for parenting.

Now that my daughter is almost 2, I am very grateful for both the interpretive framework and the simple but rare practical principles that have made our life together so smooth and joyful, and by extension, continue to deepen my understanding of what it means to live in family, in community, and in my own body.

FABULOUS!, July 29, 2003
Reviewer: ddfresh2 (see more about me) from St. Paul, MN
This is the most important book anyone in Western society could ever read, whether or not they have children.

If only I could buy a trillion copies and drop them out of an airplane, blanketing the earth!

You must read it to know what I mean.

Jean Liedloff (Biography)

Jean Liedloff lives in Sausalito, California, near San Francisco, on a houseboat which she shares with her cat.

Her work includes speaking engagements and consulting with people to help them apply the principles of The Continuum Concept not only for parenting, but also for recovering from the adverse effects of a modern, "non-continuum" upbringing. Many of these consulting sessions take place via telephone, and she has clients in many countries. She may be reached by telephone at (415) 332-1570. (The best times to call are between 9 AM and 12:00 noon, or between 5 PM and 9 PM, Pacific time zone.) She is not reachable via email.

The Continuum Concept is Liedloff's only book; however, she has written some articles and given interviews which are available on her website. She is not married and has no children. In fact, she never intended her book to be a child-rearing "manual," but she feels glad to have contributed a book that has helped so many parents give their children a good start in life. Lately, she has been receiving positive feedback not only from parents, but also from their grown children who were raised with continuum principles and are now having their own "continuum kids."

Jean also enjoys painting.
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