Information

Spock Publishes Book On Baby Care - History


Benjamin Spock published "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care." The book went on to sell 25,000,000 copies and revolutionize childcare.

Doctor Spock, 1903-1998: The World’s Most Famous Baby Doctor

His famous book told parents: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do”. Transcript of radio broadcast:

And I'm Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the world's most famous doctor for children, Benjamin Spock.

Benjamin Spock's first book caused a revolution in the way American children were raised. His book, "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care," was published in nineteen forty-six. The book gave advice to parents of babies and young children. The first lines of the book are famous. Doctor Spock wrote: "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do".

This message shocked many parents. For years, mothers had been told that they should reject their natural feelings about their babies. Before Doctor Spock's book appeared, the most popular guide to raising children was called "Psychological Care of Infant and Child." The book's writer, John B. Watson, urged extreme firmness in dealing with children. The book called for a strong structure of rules in families. It warned parents never to kiss, hug or physically comfort their children.

Doctor Spock's book was very different. He gave gentle advice to ease the fears of new parents. Doctor Spock said his work was an effort to help parents trust their own natural abilities in caring for their children.

Doctor Spock based much of his advice on the research and findings of the famous Austrian psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud.

Doctor Spock's book discusses the mental and emotional development of children. It urges parents to use that information to decide how to deal with their babies when they are crying, hungry, or tired.

For example, Doctor Spock dismissed the popular idea of exactly timed feedings for babies. Baby care experts had believed that babies must be fed at the same times every day or they would grow up to be demanding children.

Doctor Spock said babies should be fed when they are hungry. He argued that babies know better than anyone about when and how much they need to eat. He did not believe that feeding babies when they cry in hunger would make them more demanding. He also believed that showing love to babies by hugging and kissing them would make them happier and more secure.

"The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" examined the emotional and physical growth of children. Doctor Spock said he did not want to just tell a parent what to do. He said he tried to explain what children generally are like at different times in their development so parents would know what to expect.

Doctor Spock's book did not receive much notice from the media when it was published in nineteen forty- six. Yet, seven hundred fifty thousand copies of the book were sold during the year after its release. Doctor Spock began receiving many letters of thanks from mothers around the country.

Doctor Spock considered his mother, Mildred Spock, to be the major influence on his personal and professional life. He said his ideas about how parents should act were first formed because of her. He reacted to the way in which his mother cared for him and his brother and sisters.

Doctor Spock described his mother as extremely controlling. He said she believed all human action was the result of a physical health issue or a moral one. She never considered her children's actions were based on emotional needs.

Doctor Spock later argued against this way of thinking. Yet, he praised his mother's trust of her own knowledge of her children. In his book, "Spock on Spock," he wrote about his mother's ability to correctly identify her children's sicknesses when the doctors were wrong.

Benjamin Spock was born in nineteen-oh-three. He was the first of six children. The Spock family lived in New Haven, Connecticut. His father was a successful lawyer. Benjamin was a quiet child. He attended Phillips Academy, a private school in Andover, Massachusetts. Later he attended Yale University in New Haven. He joined a sports team at Yale that competed in rowing boats. In nineteen twenty-four, he and his team members competed in rowing at the Olympic Games in Paris, France. They won the gold medal.

Benjamin Spock worked at a camp for disabled children for three summers during his years at Yale. He said the experience probably led to his decision to enter medical school. He began at Yale Medical School, but he completed his medical degree at Columbia University in New York City. He graduated as the best student in his class in nineteen twenty-nine.

Benjamin Spock had married Jane Cheney during his second year in medical school. They later had two sons, Michael and John.

Doctor Spock began working as a pediatrician, treating babies and children in New York City in nineteen thirty-three. During the next ten years he tried to fit the theories about how children develop with what mothers told him about their children. In nineteen forty-three, a publisher asked him to write a book giving advice to parents. He finished the book by writing at night during his two years of service in the United States Navy.

Jane Spock helped her husband produce the first version of "Baby and Child Care." She typed the book from his notes and spoken words.

During the nineteen fifties, Doctor Spock became famous. He wrote several other books. He wrote articles for a number of magazines. He appeared on television programs. He taught at several universities. And he gave speeches around the country to talk to parents about their concerns.

During this time, he discovered things he wanted to change in the book. He wanted to make sure parents knew they should have control over their children and expect cooperation from them. So, in nineteen fifty-seven the second version of the book was published. He continued to make changes to "Baby and Child Care" throughout his life.

In the nineteen sixties, Benjamin Spock began to be active in politics. He supported John F. Kennedy in his campaign for president. He joined a group opposed to the development of nuclear weapons.

Doctor Spock also took part in demonstrations to protest the Vietnam War. In nineteen sixty-eight, he was found guilty of plotting to aid men who were refusing to join the American armed forces.

Doctor Spock appealed the ruling against him. Finally, it was cancelled. However, the legal battle cost Doctor Spock a lot of money. The events damaged public opinion of the once very trusted children's doctor. Fewer people bought his books. Some people said Doctor Spock's teachings were to blame for the way young people in the nineteen sixties and seventies rebelled against the rules of society. A leading American religious thinker of that time called Doctor Spock "the father of permissiveness."

In nineteen seventy-two, Doctor Spock decided to seek election as president of the United States. He was the candidate of the small "People's Party."

He spoke out on issues concerning working families, children and minorities. Doctor Spock received about seventy-five thousand votes in the election that Richard Nixon won.

Doctor Spock's marriage had been suffering for some time. For years, Jane Spock drank too much alcohol and suffered from depression. She reportedly felt her husband valued his professional and political interests more than he valued her. In nineteen seventy-five, Benjamin and Jane Spock ended their forty-eight-year marriage. One year later, Mary Morgan became his second wife.

More than fifty million copies of Doctor Spock's "Baby and Child Care" book have been sold since it was published. It has been translated into thirty-nine languages. The eighth edition was published in two thousand four. It includes the latest medical information about nutrition, physical disorders and behavior. It also deals with social issues such as working mothers, day care centers, single parents and gay and lesbian parenting.

Benjamin Spock died in nineteen ninety-eight at the age of ninety-four. Yet his advice continues to affect the lives of millions of children and their parents.

This program was written by Caty Weaver. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Faith Lapidus.

And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another People in America program in VOA Special English.


Spock at 65: Five Ideas That Changed American Parenting

Spock continued to update Baby and Child Care throughout his life. His first edition, after all, was published in 1946, when "parenting," at least for infants, meant almost exclusively "mothering." Over the decades Spock came to view this as wrong. He embraced an increased role for fathers and adopted a more gender-neutral tone, expunging sexual stereotypes from the book. By the 1990s, he was taking on the fight against childhood obesity, and wanted to include information for gay and lesbian parents. Crucially, he also changed the way he dealt with his own family. Shortly before Spock's death, journalist and writer Thomas Maier published a biography of the man, Dr. Spock: An American Life. In it, Maier writes:

Sixty-five years ago today, one of the most revolutionary books in American history was published. True, Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care probably didn’t look like much when it first came out in 1946 — just in time for the baby boom. But with his conversational tone and his concise, practical tips on everything from toilet-training to calming a colicky baby, Spock helped to usher in a new era of American home life.

Spock was, as TIME noted in the doctor’s obituary in 1998, “one of the most famous and controversial figures of his century. He singlehandedly changed the way parents raise their children.”

By the time of his death, Spock (apparently no inspiration for the Star Trek character by the same name) had sold nearly 50 million copies of his book, translated into 42 languages.

Today the book is still in print, although it now goes by the name, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care. It’s in its eighth edition and updated with tips for contemporary parenting, including advice for gay and lesbian parents and even notes on international adoption.

In honor of the book’s 65th birthday, here are five great Spock ideas that helped define America’s view of parenthood.

When Spock’s book came out in 1946, U.S. doctors had already established themselves as voices of authority — experts in the budding, newly productive field of medicine. But Spock, unlike many in his profession, did not command his readers to follow strict doctor’s orders. Instead, from his opening sentences, Spock’s tone was warm and reassuring:

“Trust yourself,” he told new parents. “You know more than you think you do.”

Spock gave anxious postwar moms and dads permission to be confident in their own sound parenting — that now-typical American sense that parents know best what’s right for their own kids. There wouldn’t always be a pediatrician on hand when the toddler grew stubborn or the baby was bawling. But if parents would just use some common sense and trust their instincts, Spock believed, they would usually get through it fine.

2) Routines are nice, but babies don’t need strict a regimen

Spock broke with conventional wisdom of his day and said it was not really too important for infants to keep a strict, regular feeding and sleeping schedule.

The doctor was in no way opposed to giving children some good, solid day-to-day routine, mind you. But if a young baby was wailing with hunger outside of a regular mealtime, Spock felt it was fine for the mother to give her baby (and herself) some peace.

Critics balked at the idea that parents would follow the whims of a mere infant, feeding or rocking the child at all hours of the day — or night. They warned that Spock was too “permissive,” and that coddling babies and children could eventually make them self-indulgent and rebellious.

This view became especially popular as the baby boomers came of age in the 1960s, and Spock himself started speaking out in protest of the Vietnam War, critical of the U.S. government.

Spock became controversial for his views that parents needed to follow the cues of their babies. Yet modern readers perusing Spock’s earliest editions of Baby and Child Care sometimes find him uncomfortably cold for today’s standards. It shows how much public opinion has shifted in 65 years.

3) Don’t fret if your baby acts funny Freud can explain it

While training as a pediatrician in the early 1930s, the young Dr. Spock is said to have wanted to learn psychology, so that he could better understand child development. Spock trained part-time later that decade at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. He became well versed in the theories of Sigmund Freud — the eminent early psychologist, who posited that human behavior is largely the product of unconscious sexual drives, determined in no small part by childhood experience.

As TIME wrote in its obituary of Spock in 1998:

What Spock really did in Baby and Child Care, which he started writing in 1943, was to sneak Freudian concepts into the American middle-class mind. Surmising that new parents were not yet ready to hear of their infants’ oral, anal and genital stages, Spock simply advised moms and dads not to get alarmed if baby sometimes behaved, well, oddly. He had learned from Freud that repression could produce catastrophic adult neuroses. Better, he advised, to wait things out.

Over the course of Spock’s lifetime, most of those Freudian concepts were debunked or otherwise abandoned by the medical profession. But who knows how many parents were unwittingly influenced by Freud’s somewhat bizarre ideas, without even knowing it.

4) Ideas about good parenting should evolve

Spock continued to update Baby and Child Care throughout his life. His first edition, after all, was published in 1946, when “parenting,” at least for infants, meant almost exclusively “mothering.”

Over the decades Spock came to view this as wrong. He embraced an increased role for fathers and adopted a more gender-neutral tone, expunging sexual stereotypes from the book.

By the 1990s, he was taking on the fight against childhood obesity, and wanted to include information for gay and lesbian parents.

Crucially, he also changed the way he dealt with his own family. Shortly before Spock’s death, journalist and writer Thomas Maier published a biography of the man, Dr. Spock: An American Life. In it, Maier writes writes:

[Spock] acknowldeged being too career driven and in recent years made a concerted effort to show more affection to his grown sons in a way they said never happened in their youth. […] [He] recognized the inconsistencies between his public and private lives, the insurmountable gap he had trouble reconciling even in his own mind. His lesson to fathers, Spock now told an interviewer, comes “through my writing, not my example.”

It seems almost ludicrous today that anyone could ever think otherwise. But this idea was by no means taken for granted just 100 years ago. Early 20th-century child-rearing guides warned parents not to kiss their babies or cradle them too much, lest the children become spoiled.

Spock taught his readers that babies were little people with their own emotional needs, and that they should be cherished, not encouraged to meet the schedules and rules of adult life as quickly as possible.

“Children are driven from within themselves to grow, explore, experience, learn, and build relationships with other people,” the latest edition of Baby and Child Care now reads. “So while you are trusting yourself, remember also to trust your child.”


Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, 10th edition (Paperback)

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Description

From the pediatrician whose advice has shaped parenting practices for more than half a century comes the essential parenting book—fully revised and updated with the latest research and written in clear, accessible prose for parents of all backgrounds.

Generations of parents have relied on the influential bestseller Dr. Spock&rsquos Baby and Child Care as the most authoritative and reliable guide for child care. This timeless yet up-to-date edition has been revised and expanded by Dr. Robert Needlman, a top-notch pediatrician who shares Dr. Spock&rsquos philosophy and has applied his research in his career.

In this tenth edition, you can gain the latest information on child development from birth through adolescence—including cutting-edge research on topics as crucial as immunizations, screen-time, childhood obesity, environmental health, and more. With a revised glossary of the newest and most common medications and a guide to reliable online resources, this vital handbook will help you become the best parent you can be.

About the Author

Dr. Benjamin Spock was the most trusted and most famous pediatrician worldwide his reassuring and commonsense advice shaped parenting practices for half a century. The author of eleven books, he was a political activist for causes that vitally affect children: disarmament, day care, schooling, housing, and medical care for all. Dr. Spock&rsquos Baby and Child Care has been translated into thirty-nine languages and has sold more than fifty million copies worldwide since its first publication in 1946. Please visit DrSpock.com for more information.

Robert Needlman, MD, is professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and director of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. The author of Dr. Spock&rsquos Baby Basics, he also coauthored the 8th and 9th editions of Dr. Spock&rsquos Baby and Child Care. Dr. Needlman is cofounder of Reach Out and Read, a child literacy program that has received the UNESCO Confucius Prize and the David M. Rubenstein Prize from the Library of Congress, among other honors.


Dr. Spock, 1903-1998: The World’s Most Famous Baby Doctor

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the world’s most famous doctor for children, Benjamin Spock.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Benjamin Spock’s first book caused a revolution in the way American children were raised. His book, “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care,” was published in nineteen forty-six. The book gave advice to parents of babies and young children. The first lines of the book are famous. Dr. Spock wrote: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do”.

STEVE EMBER: This message shocked many parents. For years, mothers had been told that they should reject their natural feelings about their babies. Before Dr. Spock’s book appeared, the most popular guide to raising children was called “Psychological Care of Infant and Child.” The book’s writer, John B. Watson, urged extreme firmness in dealing with children. The book called for a strong structure of rules in families. It warned parents never to kiss, hug or physically comfort their children.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Dr. Spock’s book was very different. He gave gentle advice to ease the fears of new parents. Dr. Spock said his work was an effort to help parents trust their own natural abilities in caring for their children.

DR. SPOCK: “I was always trying to lean in the direction of reassuring parents.”

Dr. Spock based much of his advice on the research and findings of the famous Austrian psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud.

DR. SPOCK: “Freud was interested in where is the origin of neuroses, I was interested in the other side of it, how do children grow emotionally. And I think Freud has given us a very good explanation of the stages of development.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: Dr. Spock’s book discusses the mental and emotional development of children. It urges parents to use that information to decide how to deal with their babies when they are crying, hungry, or tired.

For example, Dr. Spock dismissed the popular idea of exactly timed feedings for babies. Baby care experts had believed that babies must be fed at the same times every day or they would grow up to be demanding children.

Dr. Spock said babies should be fed when they are hungry. He argued that babies know better than anyone about when and how much they need to eat. He did not believe that feeding babies when they cry in hunger would make them more demanding. He also believed that showing love to babies by hugging and kissing them would make them happier and more secure.

STEVE EMBER: “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” examined the emotional and physical growth of children. Dr. Spock said he did not want to just tell a parent what to do. He said he tried to explain what children generally are like at different times in their development so parents would know what to expect.

Dr. Spock’s book did not receive much notice from the media when it was published in nineteen forty- six. Yet, seven hundred fifty thousand copies of the book were sold during the year after its release. Dr. Spock began receiving many letters of thanks from mothers around the country.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Dr. Spock considered his mother, Mildred Spock, to be the major influence on his personal and professional life. He said his ideas about how parents should act were first formed because of her. He reacted to the way in which his mother cared for him and his brother and sisters.

Dr. Spock described his mother as extremely controlling. He said she believed all human action was the result of a physical health issue or a moral one. She never considered her children’s actions were based on emotional needs.

DR. SPOCK: “And though some people have said I suppose this book is a protest against the way you were brought up, well that’s only about a third of it.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: Dr. Spock later argued against this way of thinking. Yet, he praised his mother’s trust of her own knowledge of her children. In his book, “Spock on Spock,” he wrote about his mother’s ability to correctly identify her children’s sicknesses when the doctors were wrong.

DR. SPOCK: “I think that my interest in children, devotion to children and those of my sisters and brother were all because my mother was totally devoted to her children. So I think that’s part of where I got launched from, I cared a lot about children, but I think I also thought there must be easier ways, more pleasant ways to bring up children than the rather severe oppressive way that my mother used.”

STEVE EMBER: Benjamin Spock was born in nineteen-oh-three. He was the first of six children. The Spock family lived in New Haven, Connecticut. His father was a successful lawyer. Benjamin was a quiet child. He attended Phillips Academy, a private school in Andover, Massachusetts. Later he attended Yale University in New Haven. He joined a sports team at Yale that competed in rowing boats. In nineteen twenty-four, he and his team members competed in rowing at the Olympic Games in Paris, France. They won the gold medal.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Benjamin Spock worked at a camp for disabled children for three summers during his years at Yale. He said the experience probably led to his decision to enter medical school. He began at Yale Medical School, but he completed his medical degree at Columbia University in New York City. He graduated as the best student in his class in nineteen twenty-nine.

Benjamin Spock had married Jane Cheney during his second year in medical school. They later had two sons, Michael and John.

Dr. Spock began working as a pediatrician, treating babies and children in New York City in nineteen thirty-three. During the next ten years he tried to fit the theories about how children develop with what mothers told him about their children. In nineteen forty-three, a publisher asked him to write a book giving advice to parents. He finished the book by writing at night during his two years of service in the United States Navy.

Jane Spock helped her husband produce the first version of “Baby and Child Care.” She typed the book from his notes and spoken words.

STEVE EMBER: During the nineteen fifties, Dr. Spock became famous. He wrote several other books. He wrote articles for a number of magazines. He appeared on television programs. He taught at several universities. And he gave speeches around the country to talk to parents about their concerns.

During this time, he discovered things he wanted to change in the book. He wanted to make sure parents knew that they should have control over their children and expect cooperation from them. So, in nineteen fifty-seven the second version of the book was published. He continued to make changes to “Baby and Child Care” throughout his life.

FAITH LAPIDUS: In the nineteen sixties, Benjamin Spock began to be active in politics. He supported John F. Kennedy in his campaign for president. He joined a group opposed to the development of nuclear weapons.

Dr. Spock also took part in demonstrations to protest the Vietnam War. In nineteen sixty-eight, he was found guilty of plotting to aid men who were refusing to join the American armed forces.

STEVE EMBER: Dr. Spock appealed the ruling against him. Finally, it was cancelled. However, the legal battle cost Doctor Spock a lot of money. The events damaged public opinion of the once very trusted children’s doctor. Fewer people bought his books. Some people said Dr. Spock’s teachings were to blame for the way young people in the nineteen sixties and seventies rebelled against the rules of society. A leading American religious thinker of that time called Dr. Spock “the father of permissiveness.”

In nineteen seventy-two, Dr. Spock decided to seek election as president of the United States. He was the candidate of the small “People’s Party.”

He spoke out on issues concerning working families, children and minorities. Dr. Spock received about seventy-five thousand votes in the election that Richard Nixon won.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Dr. Spock’s marriage had been suffering for some time. For years, Jane Spock drank too much alcohol and suffered from depression. She reportedly felt her husband valued his professional and political interests more than he valued her. In nineteen seventy-five, Benjamin and Jane Spock ended their forty-eight-year marriage. One year later, Mary Morgan became his second wife.

STEVE EMBER: More than fifty million copies of Dr. Spock’s “Baby and Child Care” book have been sold since it was published. It has been translated into thirty-nine languages. The eighth edition was published in two thousand four.

Benjamin Spock died in nineteen ninety-eight at the age of ninety-four. Yet his advice continues to affect the lives of millions of children and their parents.

FAITH LAPIDUS: This program was written by Caty Weaver. It was produced by Jill Moss. I’m Faith Lapidus.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another People in America program in VOA Special English.

Sound of Dr. Spock taken from a 1982 interview on “The Alternative Information Network”, produced by Frank Morrow


Biographies

In addition to his own 1989 memoir (see Spock and Morgan 1989, cited under Later Career: Books), two biographies have been written on the life of Benjamin Spock: Doctor Spock: Biography of a Conservative Radical (Bloom 1972) and Dr. Spock: An American Life (Maier 1998). Bloom 1972 focuses extensively on Spock’s political activism and does not cover his life after the beginning of the 1970s. Maier 1998 provides a more complete picture of Spock’s personal and professional life.

Bloom, Lynn Z. Doctor Spock: Biography of a Conservative Radical. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1972.

Written prior to his divorce and second marriage to Mary Morgan. Examination of Spock’s professional and personal life, and political activities and views.

Maier, Thomas. Dr. Spock: An American Life. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1998.

Comprehensive look at the personal, professional, and political life of Benjamin Spock, from childhood to his final days. In-depth discussion of his family and personal life.

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Controversies

Some of Spock&rsquos methods and views have attracted controversies over the years. In Baby and Child Care Spock advocated that parents place their children on their abdomens to sleep to lower the risk of the child choking on vomit in the night. However, studies in the 1970s found that this greatly increased the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Spock&rsquos theory was found to be based on no empirical evidence and could have indirectly led to the deaths of many infants. Spock also advocated male circumcision in his early career, but later changed his views in the 1980s. Spock&rsquos condemnation of the Vietnam War saw the sales of his book plummet in 1968.


Bibliography

Deetz, James. 1996. In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life, rev. and expanded ed. New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday.

Grant, Julia. 1998. Raising Baby by the Book: The Education of American Mothers. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Greven, Philip. 1990. Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. New York: Knopf.

Hulbert, Ann. 2003. Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice about Children. New York: Knopf.

Hunter, James Davison. 1991. Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. New York: Basic Books.

Lakoff, George. 1996. Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don't. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lasch, Christopher. 1977. Haven in a Heartless World: The Family Beseiged. New York: Basic Books.

Mechling, Jay. 1975. "Advice to Historians on Advice to Mothers." Journal of Social History 9: 44 – 63.

Stearns, Carol Zisowitz, and Peter N. Stearns. 1986. Anger: The Struggle for Emotional Control in America's History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stearns, Peter N. 1989. Jealousy: The Evolution of an Emotion in American History. New York: New York University Press.

Stearns, Peter N. 2003. Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Child-rearing in America. New York: New York University Press.

Wishy, Bernard. 1968. The Child and the Republic: The Dawn of American Child Nurture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Navy Times Daily News Roundup.

In his 1930 book, “Behaviorism,” he wrote: “Never, never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning.”

Spock advocated a radically different approach. He believed that children come into the world with distinct needs, interests and abilities, and that the core of good parenting is attending carefully to what each child requires at each stage of development.

Parents needed to trust themselves – or, as he wrote in the book’s first edition, “You know more than you think you do.”

Human beings, after all, had been bearing and raising children long before John Watson, the invention of the printing press and the introduction of writing.

Spock emphasized parenting as a voyage of discovery. He treated mistakes as learning opportunities. True to his word, his own views evolved over time. In later editions of the book, he stopped treating parenting as “mothering,” introduced gender-neutral language for children and admitted that he had been wrong to warn against allowing babies to sleep on their backs.

A good start in life

Spock was born in 1903 in New Haven, Connecticut, where his father was a successful attorney. He attended elite institutions including Phillips Andover Academy and Yale University. While at Yale, the 6-foot-4-inch Spock rowed on the crew team, which represented the United States in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris and won a gold medal.

He attended Yale School of Medicine before transferring to Columbia, where he graduated first in his class in 1929.

While attending medical school, he married his first wife, Jane, who would later collaborate on his book. In addition to his pediatric training, Spock, who believed that the emotional aspects of child life were under-emphasized, also trained in psychoanalysis.

During World War II, Spock joined the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy Reserves and wrote “The Commonsense Book of Baby and Child Care.”

He then took faculty positions at the University of Minnesota, the University of Pittsburgh and Case Western Reserve University, lecturing and appearing in popular media all over the world.

In 1976, Spock married his second wife, Mary.

In 1998, he died at the age of 94.

/>Dr. Benjamin Spock at a Berkeley teach-in concerning the Vietnam War (from a sound recording edited by Louis Menashe, recorded at the Berkeley campus of the University of California by Radio Station KPFA, now in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections/Smithsonian Institution)

Anti-war activism and a legacy

During the 1960s, Spock became a political activist, opposing the Vietnam War and nuclear proliferation and supporting civil rights. In 1968, he was arrested for promoting nonviolent military draft resistance, although his conviction was overturned the following year.

Despite Spock’s extraordinary popularity, he was not without detractors. Some attacked him for his political views, and others accused him of promoting excessive permissiveness. Others argued that he created unreasonable expectations for maternal dedication.

Critics on both sides of the political spectrum complained that he had largely ignored fathers.

Spock’s most enduring legacy was his love of children. He said that if he had a fault as a pediatrician, it was his tendency to “whoop it up too much with children.”

Above all, he dreamed of a world in which children would be “inspired by their opportunities for being helpful and loving.”

WWII veteran Herman Wouk, a consummate writer until the end, dies at 103

He created the immortal fictional character Captain Queeg of “The Caine Munity.”

Dr. Richard Gunderman is Chancellor’s Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, Philanthropy, and Medical Humanities and Health Studies at Indiana University. He is also John A Campbell Professor of Radiology and in 2019-20 also serves as Bicentennial Professor. Gunderman is the author of more than 700 articles and has published 12 books, including “We Make a Life by What We Give” (Indiana University, 2008), “X-ray Vision” (Oxford University, 2013), “Essential Radiology” (3rd edition, Thieme, 2014), and “We Come to Life with Those We Serve” (Indiana University, 2017). Published in 2019 are “Pediatric Imaging” and “Tesla.”

Navy Times editor’s note: Dr. Spock joined the Navy in 1944 and served mainly as a psychiatrist, writing his landmark parenting manual when he was off duty. He was discharged in 1946. Dr. Gunderman’s explainer does not necessarily reflect the views of Navy Times or our staffers.


6 Comments

I really enjoyed the article, the historical context, and analysis. I think we still have a long way to go in terms of “informed consent” in mental health care. I would say the perspective of “caring custody” is still very much the predominate perspective – whether it is explicitly stated or not. I’m glad that we have continued to move in the direction of participatory medicine for health care in general and particularly in regards to women’s bodies, childbirth, and childrearing. There still are remnants of those perspectives however, especially with the recent “Let your baby cry themselves to sleep” advice and the very rigid sleep schedule proposed by Dr. Richard Ferber. As a parent who chose not to use this method, I felt pressured and like I was doing the wrong thing. I’m glad there has now been future studies to show that indeed letting your baby cry it out can be harmful to their brains and emotional well-being.

Anyway…I think we need to continue to work on these issue and how issues of informed consent and a more collaborative relationship with a doctor continue to plague the dominant paradigm in certain areas of health care.

This vivid account of the history of participatory medicine is valuable on many counts: because it legitimizes the themes that drive our work because it shines a light on many issues participatory medicine has yet to address and because it demonstrates that we stand on the shoulders of many smart, thoughtful activists — patients and clinicians together — who have strategized, advocated and acted to advance health care in which we have a place and a voice.

I so wish that our current health care system was as truly “participatory” as has been described in this history. However, as a person who went into a prestigious hospital, to have a kidney stone removed via ureteroscopy (in Day Surgery), and ended up awakening in the ICU, only to discover that the urologist had completely avulsed my left ureter out of my body, then opted “cover his tracks”, by performing an open nephrectomy (without my knowledge or consent, nor the knowledge or consent of my clearly identified Health Care Proxy), rather than awakening me or performing a more modern, less risky procedure, leads me to believe that “participatory medicine” is more a dream than a reality.

That same urologist failed to perform any type of a history or physical exam on me, prior to the ureteroscopy, nor did he test my right kidney, to see how functional it was, prior to performing the (undiscussed/unapproved) left open nephrectomy. Thus, I instantaneously developed Stage 4 CKD (I’d never had any kidney problems, other than recurrent kidney stones, prior to the nephrectomy), as well as, left truncal paralysis, left flank bulge and severe, chronic left flank pain – from the urologist having severed the nerves in my 11th intercostal space, during the nephrectomy.

Thus, I went from being a highly educated, multiple professional, working 60 – 80 hours/week, to being totally and permanently disabled, at the age of 44. I wasn’t prepared, on ANY level, to be forcibly retired from working, at such a young age and after having spent thousands of dollars and thousands of hours, obtaining my multiple university degrees (over 11+ years). However, taking legal action against the involved urologist made it obvious, to me, that there is NO JUSTICE within our current “Justice System”. I received compensation that was less than one year’s pay, as an RN, although I’ll never be able to work in ANY capacity, ever again.

Thus, I’m now an impoverished, former professional, severely disabled, with multiple complications and declining health. All I did was consent to a “minor” surgical procedure, yet I am the one who is being “punished”, every single day, while the (now) 77 year old urologist continues to happily chop away on other patients, with no impact on his life. I’ll probably be long dead, before “participatory medicine” ever arrives within the Pacific Northwest!

Janice, that’s a horrible story – I can’t begin to imagine that experience. Good heavens. It sounds like the stories of so many others I’ve heard. Are you on Facebook? You might want to join the “IHI Patient Activists” group https://www.facebook.com/groups/PatientActivists/?ap=1.

I just want to point out that you didn’t just suffer from a lack of participatory medicine, you were mutilated. It seems a travesty that there were apparently no appropriate consequences. Did they make you sign a gag order or did you avoid that?

Hello: After several months of private reading and research across all levels of websites and other resources this is the first clear history I have read regarding how informed consenting came about.

The process of medical informed consent is about the quality of the conversation, not the piece of paper we all sign. The paper however serves an extremely important role as a historian: to document and codify the contract or agreement between the provider and the patient about what is happening, what can be expected, and any limitations are clearly imposed by the patient.

Even in this day and age I can imagine that many providers do not like or encourage patient limitations, nor having to comply with regulatory requirements that dictate specific elements must be included in all consenting forms.

The concept of participatory medicine is one that seems to be talked much about on one hand: how well it is actually lived in patient experience is another.

I wonder how much longer it will be before CMS, insurance plans, and other entities start denying the use of tax dollars as payments for procedures that cannot be clearly proven as properly consented?

Or that regulatory bodies such as TJC start actually enforcing tying the lack of H&P’s, Operative reports and discharge summaries to cite or impose sanctions?

What would happen if hospitals had to also tie the lack of H&P, operative reports, completed consenting documents or discharge summaries to how well the individual provider was performing for evaluation and credentialing/privileging purposes?

An area related to informed consent that the article neglects to address is that of “proxy consent” for surgery performed on minor children. By most accounts, the most common such surgery, infant circumcision, rarely receives adequate discloser of risk, benefits, and alternative treatment approaches that will result in equal or better outcomes.

The recent AAP Circumcision Task Force reports that there is little in the way of reliable documentation of surgical risks for infant circumcision and that most boys will experience no medical benefit from the procedure, but that if a parent request the surgery, as the AAP claims is their right, it should be done with appropriate attention to pain limitation.

How is proxy consent even an issue when there is no medical diagnosis of a disease or deformity that requires surgical intervention? How can doctors continue to perform a medically unnecessary surgery, based upon “proxy consent,” to treat a nonexistent medical condition?

Amputations are reserved to treat gangrene, necrotic tissue, or traumatically injured body parts that cannot be surgically repaired. The amputation of healthy, functioning tissue (the infant foreskin), based upon “proxy consent,” is an issue that the medical community needs to address. The infant “patient” is the one who has to live the rest of his life with the result of the unnecessary surgery shouldn’t his right to bodily integrity outweigh any “proxy consent?”


Watch the video: Dr Spock Baby Doctor - Trailer (January 2022).