The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care Summary

Benjamin Spock


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care has been an indispensable guide for parents since its first publication in 1946; it covers many aspects of health, behavior, and family in organized and readable style. Dr. Benjamin Spock periodically updated the text to reflect advances in medicine (such as the eradication of polio and other childhood diseases) and changes in society (including the rise in divorce rates, the prevalence of single parents and blended families, and women’s struggle for equality).

Spock’s text has been highly influential and widely copied. His famous first line, “You know more than you think you do,” reassures parents of their competence. He encourages parents to trust themselves and decries rigidity in scheduling and discipline. Parents, he says, should be reasonable, friendly, and consistent with children. Particularly in recent editions, women’s issues are discussed: equality of boys and girls, working mothers, and coparenting.

The book was at times controversial; Spock was accused of advocating permissiveness. Others criticized the book’s status as a bible for parents, bemoaning its influence on generations of children. On the other hand, many parents believe that the book increased their confidence; especially for women, Spock’s assertion that it was acceptable to be irritated or impatient on occasion debunked myths about the “perfect parent.” He also urged parents to be active in politics and their communities, to make their children’s world better.