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Institution of Motherhood

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

Simply defined, motherhood refers to mothers as a collective group, to the state of being a mother, and to the qualities attributed to mothers. However, motherhood cannot be simply defined. Motherhood is also a principle, a key component in the political and social order of communities: an institution. Institutions are established social mechanisms and significant cultural practices that regulate human behavior according to the needs of a community, not individuals. Thus, motherhood is not simply biological or innate; it is also a social institution that functions ideologically and politically. In this role, motherhood idealizes mothers.

Motherhood is a set of ideals determined by the established traditions and inherited history of a society, which sees women as primarily responsible for meeting their children's daily needs. However, institutional ...

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