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Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Motherhood

  • By: Susan L. Schalge
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Motherhood is an important status recognized in all societies and a position most women hold. In many cultures, becoming a mother is a primary means to increase a woman's social status. However, tremendous cross-cultural variation exists in the meaning and practice of motherhood. Certain aspects of motherhood, such as childbirth, have a referent in biology; however, the meaning and practice of motherhood are mediated through culture. While mothering is often assumed to be a natural role determined by biology, it has developed in specific social contexts and in conjunction with various networks of other relationships, duties, and activities that influence the meaning and practice of motherhood.

There are no universal beliefs or practices of motherhood; from conception to childcare, the ethnographic record shows extensive diversity between ...

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