More than two hundred years ago Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Give me good mothers and I shall give you a great nation!” In the religious books of Islam there is a story which says when Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) once asked who is the most important person in a family he said, “It’s mother!”
Then he was asked who is next, he said, “It’s mother!” and on the third time he again said, “It’s mother!” and it was only on the fourth time he said, “It’s father.”
In Bengali culture there is a popular old-fashioned saying “Shongshar Shukher Hoi Narir Goone (it’s the mother’s/woman’s quality that makes a family happy)”.
From the so-called feminist perspective all these emphases on mothers may be interpreted as subtle attempts to subjugate women in the society.
They may sound that these are all sugar-coated means of keeping women confined within home-boundary. Arguably, these may be their versions of gender biased observation of twentieth century.
They might not be at that time cognizant of fundamental science, but what they considered was social science of those days.
However, there is no denial of fact that Napoleon or Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) or Bengali culture coined all these expressions from the then social perspectives and they were, in no way, aware of how the feminists of today would view their perceptions.
If you take science into perspective it is ever changing. History observes that it is science which defied many long-set social beliefs and values, and again it is science again which re-established or endorsed centuries-old views and practices. The same is the case in regard to social science.
If you look back even just 100 years ago, which still stands in many backward societies, you will find that once women were made responsible for the birth of boy or girl children. But modern science has proved that it’s not mother but father who is responsible for determining if a newborn baby would be a boy or a girl. In the modern times it can be very easily proved by dint of XY (for male) and XX (for female) theory. As knowledge spreads, people tend to believe in the facts and social perspective changes. Nowadays, many men have learnt to hold themselves responsible for getting conceived boy or girl children. In the male-dominated society, those who are informed, they do no more point their fingers to women for giving birth to boy or girl children.
Interestingly, this time it is something for women to take responsibility where men have very least to claim or do. It is about the intelligence of the children! A recent scientific revelation has exposed that for inheriting intelligence from parents it is a mother’s that determines how clever her children are and the father makes very little or no difference in it.
Women are more likely to transmit intelligence genes to their children because they carry on the X chromosome and women have two of these, while men have only one. A category of genes known as “conditioned genes” are thought to work only if they come from the mother in most cases. Intelligence is believed to be among the “conditioned genes” that have to come from the mother, not father.
Laboratory studies using genetically modified mice found that those with an extra dose of maternal genes developed bigger heads and brains, but had little bodies. And those with an extra dose of paternal genes had small brains and larger bodies.
Cells with paternal genes get accumulated in parts of the limbic system, which is more involved in functions such as sex, food and aggression.
But researchers did not find any paternal cells in the “cerebral cortex”, which is where the most advanced cognitive functions take place, such as reasoning, thought, language and planning.
However, research also makes it clear that genetics are not the only determinant of intelligence – about 50-60 per cent of intelligence is estimated to be hereditary, leaving a similar chunk dependent on the environment.
Interestingly it has also been found that mothers also play an extremely significant role in the non-genetic part of intelligence linking environment, with some studies suggesting a secure bond between mother and child is intimately tied to intelligence.
Researchers at the University of Washington found that a secure emotional bond between a mother and child is crucial for the growth of some parts of the brain. After analysing the way a group of mothers related to their children for seven years, the researchers found children who were supported emotionally and had their intellectual needs fulfilled, had more intelligent brain area associated with memory, learning and stress response.
A strong bond with the mother is thought to give a child a sense of security which allows them to explore the world, and the confidence to solve problems. In addition, devoted, attentive mothers tend to help children solve problems, further helping them to reach their optimum potential.
So it’s once again the mothers who are to be treated as prime-movers in getting and developing intelligent children! Be it science, religion or empirical knowledge mothers have always been found as physical and psychological force to rear intelligent and successful children.
Eventually it’s mothers who are more important in the society!
The writer is a development worker working for Manusher Jonno Foundation.