First published in 1974, Jean Liedloff’s The Continuum Concept gave birth to the “attachment parenting” movement, which grew out of her ideas. Her work has also influenced evolutionary psychology and the home-schooling movement whose founder, John Holt, said of TCC:
“If the world could be saved by a book, this just might be the book.”
Liedloff derived her Continuum theory from informal observations while living among native tribes in the Venezuelan rainforest. She was awed by the purity of their primal origin and moved by their behaviors, especially how they interacted with infants and children.
The glaring contrast between the richly connected way of life in tribal villages and the relative alienation of our culture caused her to question some of our most basic assumptions about human nature. Over time, she became convinced that humans are innately cooperative and hard-wired for happiness. She cites our ignorance of this fact as the underlying cause of all our psychosocial ills.
Liedloff’s concept propounds that humans have a “continuum of innate expectations.” In other words, we are born to expect certain specific conditions—to experience the light, air, temperature, etc., to which our species adapted during the long, formative process of evolution. Moreover, we expect to experience the type of treatment (by parents especially) that allowed our antecedents to survive hundreds of millennia.
Expectation is a key word ¡n Liedloff’s theory. Her argument is that Nature has endowed human infants with a sophisticated set of expectations as to how they will be treated and an equally sophisticated set of signals to indicate when they are not getting the expected (i.e.,“right”) treatment—most notably, for contact with mothers body during infancy.
Jean’s insight and original thinking moved readers across the globe, including John Lennon, who found in her book deeply comforting “home truths.” With a global following and zealous readership, TCC has been a “quiet bestseller” that has been translated into 20 languages and is now headed for its 18th printing in English. Countless parents the world over have said words to the effect of, “When I read The Continuum Concept, I threw all the other parenting manuals away.”