Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Hill, Michael R. 1987. “A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Several Forms of Parenting: Mother, Genitrix, and Mater.” Pp. 69-90 in On the Problem of Surrogate Parenthood: Analyzing the Baby M Case, edited by Herbert Richardson. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.


Copyright 1987 Michael R. Hill


Melissa Stern was born March 27, 1986, in New Jersey. For one so young, she has experienced or been the subject of interstate flight and fugitive hegira, legal battles involving her own court-appointed attorney, social controversy, the voracious attention of an insensitive media industry, and a place in history as the famous Baby "M". Judge Sorkow (1987: 26-27), in his opinion awarding custody of Melissa to her genetic father and terminating all parental rights of her genetic mother, notes professional evaluations indicating Melissa to be a "a mellow, alert, easy-to-care-for child who is blessed with a 'sunniness of disposition that is a delight to see. ' " She is also "a curious and social baby and adjusts to her strangers and social situtations easily." One hopes these resilient character traits flower as Melissa matures and discovers the intricacies in which her personal biography has become inextricably enmeshed in the public issues of American social conflict. The following analysis is offered with a view to explicating the interconnected personal troubles and public issues now drifting toward yet another reconsideration of a primary American social institution: family. This blatantly sociological enterprise has its own role to serve in the reflexive and hopefully emancipatory hermeneutic of social change (Giddens, 1987a, 1987b), but it is also hoped that this analysis will at some future time make at least some sense to Melissa herself.