Are Mothers Really Necessary?
Despite its flip title, this is a highly focused study of John Bowlby, an influential British child psychiatrist who has stressed the longlasting effects of maternal care on the child's future self. Some feminists accuse Bowlby of attempting to chain women to their kitchens and babies, while other psychologists fault him for overemphasizing the mother's importance. Mullan, a British writer and BBC producer, staunchly defends Bowlby, arguing that childhood can make or break a persona fact he contends has been forgotten in an age of female careerism and underfunded day-care services. When Mullan discusses adop tion, gender identity, the impact of divorce on children and the nature of love, his narrative becomes a compendium of other people's opinions. But his advocacy of community programs and direct aid to families with children deserves a hearing. Mothering is neither natural nor easy, in Bowlby's view, and Mullan persuasively argues that mothers need greater recognition and support from society at large. (Nov.)