I blog about Postwar America and bought a copy of the first edition (1946) on eBay in order to read the version my mother relied on. A classic. A couple of brief comments:
1) The conservative preacher Norman Vincent Peale, in an oft-quoted sermon, blamed Spock's "instant gratification, don't let them cry" approach for the violent demonstrations that occurred during that era. More immoderate commentators went even further, demonizing Spock as being more or less single-handedly responsible for the decline and fall of Western Civilization. This accusation (always strongly rejected by Spock himself), is simply not supported by the book, which can be considered permissive only in contrast with the draconian advice then being offered by contemporary experts to adhere to a regular schedule of sleep and feeding, even if it meant leaving an infant sobbing for hours; and to avoid picking up and comforting babies, which would only teach them to cry more. Dr. Spock expects youngsters to be assigned duties, to put things away, to come to the table when dinner is ready, and to be polite to others. He warns against asking "Do you want to..." or offering too many reasons when requiring the child to do something. The best description is perhaps the one Spock himself chose for the title of the first edition of his book, "common sense." "Trust yourself," he told young parents, "you know more than you think you do."
2) His (first) wife, Jane, whom he divorced after 48 years of marriage, was inadequately recognized and poorly rewarded for her extensive contribution to the book. At what point does transcribing, performing background research, fact-checking, recipe-testing, editing, consulting experts, rewriting, and more cross the blurry line from an acknowledgment, even (belatedly) a generous acknowledgment, into full-fledged co-authorship Jane always felt she'd been shortchanged, and a good case could be made for her claim.
For a more extensive discussion of these and other issues, please check out my blog post: