“Constellation of Values”

I’m blogging as I’m reading Dr. Rixa Freeze’s “Born Free” doctoral thesis — breaking up the different thoughts into workable posts. I know I have a tendency to talk/write a lot, so if I put all of my thoughts on the dissertation into one post, it would be very long indeed!

On the 158th page of the pdf (144 of the document), she uses the term “constellation of values” to describe the group of values or beliefs or parenting choices that often accompany unassisted birth; and I might add, often accompany home birth or natural (that is, drug-free) birth. From her paper:

Philip D. Holley and Dennis Brewster studied the value and belief systems of people who chose unassisted birth. They found that a “substantial yet selective dissatisfaction with medicine and science, education, government, consumerism, and popular culture.” These families also shared a “deep spirituality, a strong commitment to family and children, and some commitment to nature and tradition.” These two factors have led to a “constellation of values which promotes a core set of six beliefs, specifically unassisted home birth, home schooling, attachment parenting, extended breast feeding, non-vaccination, and non-circumcision as well as selected peripheral beliefs.”

From the footnote at the bottom of the page:

Holley and Brewster first used this phrase when they presented their paper in 1998. I had begun using the
same phrase before I discovered their research into RIF [Re-Invented Family]. I like the imagery of the word “constellation” — it implies a clustering of values that are interconnected, yet independent enough that the absence of one or two would not significantly change the overall contour of the behavior.

Reading that term sparked something in me. It’s just perfect to describe the phenomenon. I had previously tried to find words to describe my thoughts, and never felt like I had done so adequately — that I was lacking something… or in trying to fully comprehend what I was thinking, was going overboard. But that little phrase is a perfect summation: constellation of values. Most of the people on the various email lists I’m on certainly share these same beliefs — although not all may practice their “ideals”, due to extenuating circumstances.

In addition to the “core values,” the “peripheral values” are described as follows (on the following page):

In addition to the main six beliefs, Holley and Brewster also identified peripheral beliefs that some, but not all, adopted. Some of these beliefs affected daily home life, including vegetarianism or other dietary restrictions, cloth diapering, not owning televisions, rarely or never hiring babysitters, practicing gentle discipline, and running home-based businesses. Other peripheral beliefs included alternative medicine and natural family planning, if birth control was used at all.

I’d love to hear your comments on these topics — do you practice any of these things? why or why not? Do you sympathize with them, but don’t do them yourself? Are you strongly committed to some or all of these? Do you find yourself agreeing with most of them, but oppose one or more aspects of these values? (Page 160 of the pdf has all of these values listed in a chart.)


One Response

  1. Very interesting!

    Re: the first group of core beliefs – although I would not personally be comfortable having an unassisted birth, we did/do extended breastfeeding, cosleeping/bedsharing, homeschooling, and attached parenting; we have a selective/delayed vax schedule.

    The peripheral belief, not as categorically – we eat meat, and don’t buy organic from the grocery store (though I cook mostly from scratch, try to buy local, grow a huge organic garden and freeze lots); we have a tv, and the kids watch some videos and the occasional PBS program, but it’s limited, and almost never commercial TV; I try really, really hard to practice gentle discipline, but there is more yelling here than I’d like (from all parties!); we’d hire good babysitters more if we could afford them, but we can’t – that being said, I still haven’t been away from ds (3.5yo) overnight yet. I’m very comfortable using birth control – well, I was – until my husband had his vasectomy! I didn’t cloth diaper, but if I’d known more about it when I was pregnant with my oldest, I probably would have. I do have a home-based business, but it’s very, very part-time. So I guess that part is more of a mix.

    I hope some others respond!

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