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The nature vs nurture debate long contested by philosophers and scientists alike is of special interest tothose charged with the responsibility of raising kids in a complicated ever-changing world While todays mothers and fathers must navigate the same child-rearing seas as their own parents did they must alsocontend with the wide range of conflicting theory and advice recently generated by this volatile issue Thankfully in the face of a bewildering array of often-contradictory parental maps a few solid guideposts stand out above the fray The young science of ethnopediatrics is focused on collecting those discordant maps and exploring the differences and similarities between parenting styles of different cultures Anthropologist Meredith F Small documents this work in Our Babies Ourselves a fascinating pleasurable book that raises many questions Is there a correct method of parenting Are some methods more appropriate than others for a given environment Who gets to ride in front Small raises the possibility that the traditional actually quite recently developed American style may not be the best for our children and shows that some of the behaviors we shy away from--sleeping with infants and breastfeeding on demand for example--are much-used in other cultures and our approach may reflect our own needs rather than whats good for the children Broadening the focus a bit we find that we can learn much about the nature of nurture by studying other species Science writer Susan Allport takes us out of the maternity ward with A Natural History of Parenting a wide-ranging journey that often reflects on her own experience as a mother Such a combination of the personal and the scientific makes for compelling reading as in the passages detailing her work helping to birth lambs--her frustration and ecstasy as well as her scientific interest become our own Short on practical advice for us humans Allport has nonetheless written a comforting book At least we dont eat our young Taking the fashionable midpoint stance on the
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