API Response to the Wall Street Journal Article on Attachment Parenting
Letters to the Editor, Wall Street Journal
We agree with Erica Jong, and the many others who’ve long said so--that parents need to be surrounded with support, and they need facts and information rather than blame or guilt. Her Nov. 6 article and video, however, are full of misinformation and a distorted view of the relationship between attachment parenting (AP) and women’s fulfillment. The Wall Street Journal’s readership has seen very few articles on the subject of AP, so the publication of Jong’s article is very disheartening to see. Even more disturbing is the fact that the WSJ is ignoring the central elements of AP -- fostering confidence, creativity and learning, respectfulness, connectedness and relationship skills, and so on, in our children. All of these traits contribute to a generation of people who then create a healthy, dynamic workforce. Ask Jeremy Rifkin and many others.
AP parents, mothers included, are significant contributors to the workforce in their own right, in both creative and traditional ways. The fact that some mothers, even fathers, may step out of the traditional career track for a year or two or five, simply does not equate to “giving up your life for your child.”
Those who have studied attachment theory and practice, including many experts, recognize that this article is really a tragic story of bitterness, not a prophetic, cautionary one about the future of women.
The list of errors and assumptions in the article is long, but one crucial error concerns connection. The very core element of attachment parenting is establishing early secure attachment. It is accomplished by a newborn's learning to trust the primary caregiver - usually the mother, but often the father or a nanny. This early attachment is facilitated through well-researched practices, including minimally or unmedicated birth, breastfeeding or bottle nursing, touch that may include babywearing, sleeping in close proximity and nighttime parenting, responsiveness and sensitivity to the child, not ignoring crying, positive discipline, consistent infant care by a primary caregiver, and family balance and support. Early attachment is developmentally critical. There are plenty of sad, even tragic stories about what happens to a human being when this does not occur. Attachment is connection and empathy. Human beings want and need connection. When that need is met, humanity benefits and thrives. Parents need this connection, too, so support is core and key to attachment parenting, not antithetical.
With attachment parenting support groups growing across the country, families are creating villages of support for what may be perceived as a “new parenting norm,” based on timeless and well-proven parenting practices and wisdom. Changes are being made in society and AP families are forging those paths, not with bitter words and judgment but with a holistic view of what is promising for individuals and society. Rather than promoting rigidity in parenting decisions, API honors and respects the right and wisdom of individuals to apply these principles with flexibility and compassion to their own family situations.
Janet Jendron, President, Board of Directors, Attachment Parenting International (API) Samantha Gray, Executive Director, API Lysa Parker, Founder, API Barbara Nicholson, Founder, API Martha Sears, RN, Member, API Board of Directors William Sears, MD, Member, API Advisory Board
Dear WSJ News Editor and Deputy Editor, Smartmoney.com, Jennifer Merritt,
The November 6 Wall Street Journal article on parenting has caused a bit of a sensation and has highlighted the degree of misinformation that persists about the role parents play in raising healthy children.
It’s surprising that the Wall Street Journal would feature an essay that undermines parents when the majority of the productive workforce are parents struggling to do their best both in these disparate roles with precious little “bridge” support. Though Jong was writing about her experience decades ago, too many parents today still grapple with the same lousy set of false choices. A considerable amount of research has been published in this period of time, but few have worked to make it accessible to and for parents. Considering the typical fact-based, investigative nature of this well-respected publication, we appeal to the editors to generate more balanced, evidential information on the topic.
The fact is that parenting is not simply a lifestyle issue: it affects the very productive capacity of our nation, never mind that we care deeply about the health and well-being of our children. Research confirms over and over that children raised without appropriately adapted (attuned) nurture are generally less than optimally engaged in society. In the extreme, a few who received inadequate care create a very real, and disproportionate economic drag. That parenting and early care matter very much is real and ink-worthy and information to support this would be a service to parents, children and those who work with children. That’s nearly everyone. Parenting “police” are unnecessary, but better, more accessible information and real choices supported by policy and practice are essential.
What is most upsetting is that the essay in such a publication may serve to undermine parents not only neglecting to provide useful information, but by perpetuating myths. While business parents are likely to be interested in, and even trained to assemble and analyze, the latest facts on any given topic they’re also the ones who are exhausted from a day’s work at their income-producing job. They have the least amount of time and energy to spend doing parenting homework. Because parents of this generation tend to look to experts for an “Executive Summary,” it’s irresponsible to provide less than the most accurate information. Parenting is a relational activity - one that requires face-to-face interaction and many in business understand this well. But going in prepared with complete and accurate information is a critical first step to building the healthiest relationships.
We encourage you to interview William and Martha Sears, the API cofounders Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson and any of the current independent researchers and practitioners on child development and neuroscience, such as Allan Schore, Dan Siegel, Dr. Bruce Perry, Dr. Meredith Small, and L.Alan Sroufe.
Thank you, Wall Street Journal, for opening the discussion on attachment parenting and we look forward to you following through with important clarifications and information.
Janet Jendron, President, Board of Directors, Attachment Parenting International (API) Samantha Gray, Executive Director, API Lysa Parker, Founder, API Barbara Nicholson, Founder, API Martha Sears, RN Member, API Board of Directors William Sears, MD Member, API Advisory Board