Maternal impression

The conception of a maternal impression rests on the belief that a powerful mental (or sometimes physical) influence working on the mother's mind may produce an impression, either general or definite, on the child she is carrying.[1] The child might be said to be "marked" as a result.

Contents

Medicine

Maternal impression, according to a long-discredited medical theory, was a phenomenon that explained the existence of birth defects and congenital disorders. The theory stated that an emotional stimulus experienced by a pregnant woman could influence the development of the fetus. For example, it was sometimes supposed that the mother of the Elephant Man was frightened by an elephant during her pregnancy, thus "imprinting" the memory of the elephant onto the gestating fetus. Mental problems, such as schizophrenia and depression, were believed to be a manifestation of similar disordered feelings in the mother. For instance, a pregnant woman who experienced great sadness might imprint depressive tendencies onto the fetus in her uterus.

The theory of maternal impression was largely abandoned by the 20th century, with the development of modern genetic theory.

Folklore

In folklore, Maternal Imprinting, or Versehen[citation needed] (a German noun meaning inadvertance or as a verb to provide) as it is usually called, is the belief that a sudden fear of some object or animal in a pregnant woman can cause her child to bear the mark of it. Perhaps the first and most famous instance of this is that of Jacob in the Book of Genesis:

Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.[2]

Oswald Spengler understood Maternal Imprinting to be a folkloric understanding of what he called "blood feeling" or the formation of a group aesthetic of a bodily ideal:

What is called the "Versehen" of a pregnant woman is only a particular and not very important instance of the workings of a very deep and powerful formative principle inherent in all that is of the race side. It is a matter of common observation that elderly married people become strangely like one another, although probably Science with its measuring instruments would "prove" the exact opposite. It is impossible to exaggerate the formative power of this living pulse, this strong inward feeling for the perfection of one's own type. The feeling for race-beauty—so opposite to the conscious taste of ripe urbans for intellectual-individual traits of beauty—is immensely strong in primitive men, and for that very reason never emerges into their consciousness. But such a feeling is race-forming. It undoubtedly molded the warrior- and hero-type of a nomad tribe more and definitely on one bodily ideal, so that it would have been quite unambiguous to speak of the race-figure of Romans or Ostrogoths.[3]

Pliny the Elder also comments at length about the phenomenon of postpartum maternal impression in bears.[4]

See also

References

  1. ^ Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. 5 p. 218
  2. ^ Genesis 30:37–39, NIV
  3. ^ Spengler, Oswald, The Decline of the West, Knopf, NYC, 1928, vol. 2 p. 126
  4. ^ Pliny Natural History VIII:126

Bibliography

  • Wendy Doniger and Gregory Spinner. "Misconceptions: Parental Imprinting" in "Science in Culture" edited by Peter Louis Galison, Stephen Richards Graubard, Everett Mendelsohn, Transaction Publishers, 2001
  • Lily Weiser-Aall. "Svangerskap og Fodsel i Nyere Norsk Tradisjon" in Folklore, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Winter, 1971), pp. 339–40
  • Patricia R. Stokes. "Pathology, Danger, and Power: Women's and Physicians' Views of Pregnancy and Childbirth in Weimar Germany" in Social History of Medicine 2000 Vol. 13 (#3)
  • Katharine Park. “Impressed Images: Reproducing Wonders,” in Caroline A. Jones and Peter Galison, eds., Picturing Science, Producing Art, New York: Routledge, 1998, 254-71.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Impression — An impression is the overall effect of something.Impression may also refer to: * Impressionist (entertainment), a mimic * Impression seal, a form of identifying seal * Impression Formation, the process of integrating information about a person *… …   Wikipedia

  • Maternal effect — This article concerns the legitimate scientific concept of genes that are expressed only when carried by the female parent. It is not to be confused with the generally discredited theory of maternal impression. A maternal effect is a situation… …   Wikipedia

  • Impression (Dragonriders of Pern) — Impression is a concept from the Dragonriders of Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey. In Pernese terms, the word Impress is the joining of minds. This happens when a fire lizard, Wher, or dragon is hatched from its egg. On the moment of hatching, it… …   Wikipedia

  • Impress — or Impression may have several meanings:*OpenOffice.org Impress, a presentation program included in the OpenOffice.org office suite. *OfficeMax ImPress Print Document Services, a division of OfficeMax, Inc. specializing in the pay for print… …   Wikipedia

  • Joseph Merrick — The Elephant Man redirects here. For other uses, see The Elephant Man (disambiguation). For the Jamaican missionary, see Joseph Merrick (missionary) . Joseph Merrick Joseph Merrick photographed c.1889 …   Wikipedia

  • Birthmark — For other uses, see Birthmark (disambiguation). Birthmark Classification and external resources ICD 10 Q82.5 ICD 9 75 …   Wikipedia

  • Mary Tofts — (born c. 1701 January 1763), also called Mary Toft, was a maidservant from Godalming, England, who in 1726 became the subject of considerable controversy when she hoaxed doctors into believing that she had given birth to at least sixteen… …   Wikipedia

  • Superseded scientific theories — A superseded, or obsolete, scientific theory is a scientific theory that was once commonly accepted but that is no longer considered the most complete description of reality by a mainstream scientific consensus, or a theory which has been shown… …   Wikipedia

  • Mooncalf — A mooncalf (or moon calf) is the abortive fetus of a cow or other farm animal. The term was occasionally applied to an abortive human fetus. The term derives from the formerly widespread superstition, present in many European folk traditions,… …   Wikipedia

  • Mary Toft — Mary Toft, in an engraving based on a painting by John Laguerre in 1726 Born …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.