“Conservatives love my family-first message, but you have to pay for that message,” says researcher.
Erica Komisar is a social worker and psychoanalyst who believes young children are faring worse than they were even 30 years ago. In her practice, “I was seeing an increase in children with mental disorders, being diagnosed earlier and medicated at an early age.” After 13 years spent researching neuroscience, attachment theory, and psychoanalysis, Komisar linked this increase to a social devaluing of mothering and an inability for many women to be present to their children in the first three years of life.
Such a diagnosis, Komisar says, has cheered social conservatives—until she gets to her policy solution: at least one year of federally mandated paid maternity leave, with part-time and flexible options for two more years. “All mothers and babies should have the right to be together in the first year.” In other words, babies need mothers, but mothers—especially single and working-class ones—need tangible, societal, and fiscal support in order to nurture their babies during such a crucial time.
Komisar spoke with CT editor at large Katelyn Beaty about these and other themes found in her book, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters, as well as what Christian communities offer to the conversation.
Why is it the case that a child’s well-being apparently comes down to his or her secure attachment with the mother and not the father or other caregivers?
Mothers and fathers nurture differently for the most part, and the research backed that up. Mothers and fathers can be equal in many ways, in intelligence, in pay, in the kinds of jobs they do, but the truth is that we’re different biologically.
One of the differences is the biological difference …
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