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Community Mothering

  • By: Arlene Campbell
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Community mothering is a phenomenon based on communal responsibility, and is fundamental to sustaining the respectful and prominent role of the mothering institution. It defies traditional, dominant notions of child rearing and nurturing that tend toward individualistic maternal practice—that is, expecting one woman to assume full responsibility to care, love, and nurture biological children.

Historical Overview

With kinship origins in early African societies, this collaborative maternal practice was promulgated by biological, or blood mothers, with other women, who in turn cared for biological children. In their seminal work, African American feminist intellectuals Bristow, Brand, and Collins assert that women who assist blood mothers are integral in the institution of African American motherhood. Grandmothers, sisters, nieces, aunts, cousins, sister-in-laws and neighbors act as community mothers by taking ...

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