Just what is nurturance?
According to Merriam Webster, nurturance is the love, care and attention you give to someone or something. In other words, nurturance is the affectionate care and attention given to another. Harvard anthropologist Beatrice Whiting studied comparative child development across cultures in many parts of the world. Whiting identified nurturance as supportive and helpful behaviors toward those perceived to be in need of assistance. Whiting and her colleagues found that in many cultures, nurturance is cultivated and intentionally passed from one generation to another and taught through apprenticeship. In some cultures children are encouraged to care for younger siblings at an early age and thus learn to care for others and develop the sensitivity essential for the development of nurturance.
Whiting wrote that nurturance is necessary for human development and for reaching maturation. She maintained that in order for nurturance to be effective, the person offering nurturance must be able to make judgments concerning needs of preverbal infants and to prioritize the infants’ needs over their own desires (Whiting, 1988). Babies cannot communicate their needs through words. Those caring for infants must be able to discern and anticipate the needs and desires of the infants and respond to them in caring and attentive ways.
Does nurturing behavior come naturally?
Many would like to think that it does. We speak of maternal instincts and it is sometimes assumed that parents will know what to do when the time comes to be parents. After all, all parents were once children themselves so naturally, adults will know how to care for their young. Unfortunately, this may not be true. The developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner once said, “In the United States it is now possible for a youth, female as well as male, to graduate from high school, or even university, without ever caring for a baby; without ever looking after someone who was ill, old, or lonely; or without comforting or assisting another human being who really needed help. The developmental consequences of such a deprivation of human experience have not as yet been scientifically researched. But the possible social implications are obvious, for – sooner or later, and usually sooner – all of us suffer illness, loneliness, and the need for help, comfort, and companionship. No society can long sustain itself unless its members have learned the sensitivities, motivations, and skills involved in assisting and caring for other human beings.”
How then can parents prepare and become equipped to effectively anticipate the needs of infants and children in order to offer nurturance to meet the needs of their children?
Access to information on child development and proven parenting strategies is crucial for both new and seasoned parents, however, access in and of itself is rarely enough. Parents themselves must feel supported and encouraged in the process of parenting; parents need nurturance as well.
Thus, the genesis of this space: a place for the gathering and sharing of resources for parents as well as a place for parents to receive personalized and responsive feedback and support in their child rearing journey.