The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost (Classics in Human Development)

by Jean Liedloff

Paperback, 1986



Local notes

EC Motherhood,




Da Capo Press (1986), Edition: Reprint, 192 pages


A landmark treatise on how humanity lives versus how we should, what we've lost with our "progress," and how we can reclaim our true nature Jean Liedloff, an American writer, spent two and a half years in the South American jungle living with Stone Age Indians. The experience demolished her Western preconceptions of how we should live and led her to a radically different view of what human nature really is. She offers a new understanding of how we have lost much of our natural well-being and shows us practical ways to regain it for our children and for ourselves.

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 8.27 x 0.54 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member scroeser
Some of the advice here seems sensible and useful. It seems like a good idea to relax about parenting, to carry children with you when you can, to let children be around adults and with older children. On the other hand, I found her descriptions of the 'torture' that Western parenting puts children
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through melodramatic and unnecessary. The reinforcement of gender stereotypes and claims that homosexuality, addiction, and criminality were all caused by bad parenting did not endear this book to me either.
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LibraryThing member Amelia_Smith
My first and strongest impression of this book was that I knew the author. Although she came from the generation before mine, I feel like I knew dozens of people like her, privileged, intelligent, half-educated and profoundly dissatisfied with their home culture. I felt that I was a bit like her,
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but less starry-eyed.

The author's central theory is that human evolution has primed us to expect certain experiences which are necessary to our fundamental sense of well-being. She argues that tribal/primitive cultures which have evolved slowly over millennia and are resistant to change provide more of these "continuum" experiences. The most important of these is the in-arms phase for the infant, from birth until the baby begins to crawl. She blames many of the ills and discontentments of modern society on the fact that most of us missed out on that essential early experience, which would have given us a feeling of contentment, acceptance, and "rightness." She has a few theories about the way the continuum would have us behave in later stages of life, but that early phase is all-important.

The Continuum Concept has been enormously influential in hippie earth-mother circles, and to be honest I had hoped for more. I have no argument with the idea that babies are happier and healthier when they are in contact with a responsive caregiver, and that most are better off being carried around than being left alone in a pram, stroller, cot or crib. Maybe lots of us carry deep emotional scars from being left to cry alone when we were infants, but it;s not the answer to all our psychological problems, never mind our social issues. Basically, I agree with most of the author's recommendations about how to raise babies, but I was disappointed by her sloppy scholarship and her belief that civilization has it all wrong, when it comes to helping us be happy and fulfilled human beings.

I believe that human beings are a lot more adaptable than Jean Liedloff gives us credit for, and that while our intellectual innovations often undermine our contentment, the conscious mind, as well as instinct, can help us be happier people at any stage of life.

And now, back to my bored, attention-grabbing toddler!
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LibraryThing member Sally-AnneLambert
It makes me think people are becoming, or similar to, or meant to be, marsupials. I think the strangeness of the modern world and the challenge of guiding the younger generation really calls for this book and its simple power. How good if society can accept women carrying their babies on their
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backs in all kind of contexts... work, outings, meetings etc. I really believe it! Children must be really empowered by this!
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LibraryThing member iatethecloudsforyou
having a baby? thinking of stealing one? read this...for some things it was a bit obvious and the writers lack in some areas of child rearing are obvious, but still a good look at children raised in the amazon jungles and how they can provide insight for you and your baby.
oh and skip her
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philosophical sections, its a bunch of mumbo jumbo
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
I recommend this book to anyone planning to have a baby. It makes a good case for holding a child (or keeping it close to a person's body) during the first six to nine months of its life. If everyone took Liedloff's advice, the world would be a much happier place. A must read for prospective
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parents! Supports the theory that if you don't get that sense of security at birth, you tend to spend the rest of your life searching for semblance of it.
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LibraryThing member csoki637
Very interesting, but some problematic aspects. Hopefully they've been corrected in later editions.




(79 ratings; 4)
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