Here's Jay:

"While I don't take issue with the idea that parenting factors are always a part of children's issues I WOULD like to remind you that the whole Bettelheim era of autism theory was primarily about the MOTHERS only. It was inseparably tied in with good old fashioned sexism, holding that the defectiveness of women was responsible. This is a nice tub full of old bathwater that must be tossed, regardless of ones position on the cause of autism.

Our society perpetually teeters on the edge of holding mothers exclusively responsible for the ultimate outcome in their children's development. I generally respect, even agree with your positions but I do hope that you are not advocating a return to holding women solely responsible for the possible parental contribution to autism.

Say it ain't so, Peter."


It ain't so, Jay! But your comments and concerns are very well-taken, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

In my book (which I haven't written yet!), no parent of either sex is without their equal share of responsibility for the emotional difficulties of their children. When it comes to a parenting dyad, there is no single "bad apple." The enabler of the alcoholic or abusive spouse is as culpable as the abuser. The spouse of the disconnected partner is at some level preferring that lack of intimacy when they decide to have a child. Etc.

Unfortunately, because of the reality of sexism in human culture over the course of so many generations, and the need to turn that distortion around, the baby has sometimes gotten thrown out with the bathwater. Sometimes literally!

Bettleheim was unfairly discredited in the 1970's because the feminist movement decried as sexist any psychological theories that made a unique connection between mothering and childhood pathology. That is unfortunate. [Freud was likewise demonized by latter day feminists, even though some of Freud's best friends back in the early 20th Century were the great feminists of his time.]

Both during gestation and for the first 18 months of life, the symbiotic bond between mother and infant is so powerful that it is as if the two beings were one. Any mother can attest to that, of course, but it has also been understood by child development experts for decades. Just as nutrition goes directly from the umbilical cord and then the breast right from the mother's body into the body of the infant, so, too, does any fear, anxiety, anger, etc., go right from the mother's body into the child. It's just nature.

I am not, nor was Bettleheim, looking to "blame" mothers. But the desire to understand through empirical study what may be happening in the early life of an autistic child cannot be subject to political correctness, or we will never look at aspects of the illness that we find personally upsetting, distasteful or unpopular.

For more on this subject and the formation of a "Schizoid Character Structure," see my chart posted here.

Thanks again, Jay!

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