Author Topic: Infanticide, a study by Lloyd de Mause  (Read 3690 times)

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Offline RonPrice

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Infanticide, a study by Lloyd de Mause
« on: October 01, 2007, 10:34:54 PM »
I often wonder what the implications of Lloyd de Mause's study of infanticide are for European culture and its world right up to modern times.  I share with you some of his thoughts and look forward to a response from participants at this site in the months ahead......Ron Price, Tasmania.

In articles on infanticide by Lloyd de Mause, he showed that boy/girl sex ratios of preliterate tribes average 128/100, while boy/girl ratios from census and other sources in European history ranged from as high as 400/100 to 140/100 in the middle ages.96 With Indian and Chinese boy/girl ratios in the nineteenth century running at 300/100 and higher, and with current Asian statistics still showing over 200 million girls "missing" in the census figures,  he has determined that it is likely that overall infanticide rates of both sexes exceeded 30 percent in antiquity and only slowly declined to the very small rate in advanced societies today. Multiplying these infanticide rates by the 80 billion human births in the past 100,000 years100-80 percent of them occurring before 1750, and even more of them occurring in areas with high Asian-style infanticide rates-a weighted average infanticide rate for the entire 80 billion births was likely at the very least 15 percent, or 12 billion children killed by their parents.

Even this astonishing figure is not the whole story of infanticide, however. Every study of infant death rates among children sent out to wet nurses and abandoned in foundling homes shows much higher death rates, running to over 70 per cent and higher, even in modern times.  Doctors of every age agreed that "the most profound cause of the terrific waste of infant life is neglect...neglected by their own mothers and neglected by the nurses to whom they were abandoned..."Since parents who sent their children to wet nurse and foundling homes knew quite well they would likely not see them again-indeed, often they were sent to so-called "killing wet nurses" with a small sum of money under the tacit assumption that they would not be returned-these "delayed infanticide" acts must be added to the estimated rate of child killing, increasing it by at the very least a third, or a total of 16 billion children killed by parental acts over the entire historical span. No wonder people in the past so often said that everywhere in their areas "you could hear coming out of the bottom of latrines and ponds and rivers the groaning of the children that one had thrown there."

Although poverty played some part in this holocaust of children, it is doubtful if it was the main cause of child deaths. In the first place, the cost of bringing up a girl is no more than the cost of bringing up a boy, so the differential infanticide rates are certainly parental choices. When, for instance, Arabs dug a grave next to the birthing place of every new mother so "if the newborn child was a female she could be immediately thrown by her mother into the grave," it was likely hatred of girls, not poverty, that was the motive. Secondly, if scarce resources were the main cause, then wealthy parents should kill less than poor. But the historical record shows exactly the opposite: historical boy/girl ratios are higher among wealthy parents, where economic necessity is no problem at all. Even in early modern England, the infant mortality rates for wealthy children were higher than the same rates for ordinary farmers, day laborers and craftsman. Thirdly, many wealthy high civilizations such as Greece, Rome, China, India, Hawaii and Tahiti are very infanticidal, especially among their elite classes. As one visitor to Hawaii reported, there probably wasn't a single mother who didn't throw one or more of her children to the sharks. There were even societies where virtually all newborn were killed to satisfy their overwhelming infanticidal needs, and infants had to be imported from adjoining groups to continue the society. Finally, many nations-like in Japan until recently-kill their children selectively in order to balance out an equal number of boys and girls, a practice called mabiki, or "thinning out" the less promising ones, again revealing a quite different motive than the purely economic. It is most certainly not economics that causes so many depressed women on the delivery tables even today to implore their mothers not to kill them after they have given birth. Women since the beginning of time have felt that their children "really" belonged to God-a symbol of the grandmother, and that "the child was a gift that God had every right to reclaim." When killing her child, therefore, the mother was simply acting as her own mother's avenger.

If de Mause is right, the shift in attitude since Imperial Times-in the last 100 years is incredible.-Ron Price

« Last Edit: May 07, 2009, 01:41:06 PM by Alixz »
married for 41 yeears, a teacher for 35 and a Baha'i for 49. three books published on the internet--all available free. I moved from Canada to Australia in 1971 and married a Tasmanian in 1974. We are still married and we have raised three children. Their ages in 2008 are: 42, 37 and 31.