Anne Summers, 25 March 1993
The creation of identity, the invention and re-invention of the self, is as emblematic of the modern era as technological invention. Of the many revolutions our species has witnessed in the last two centuries, the one which has probably contributed most to the development of the ‘plastic’ self has been the process by which, in the West, family size has been permanently reduced. This has led to a decline in the mortality and morbidity of women of child-bearing age, and an accompanying, if not necessarily consequent reduction in the restrictions on their economic, affective and intellectual activities which law and custom once justified on physiological as well as theological grounds. Widespread changes in attitudes to marriage, and to the public and private relationship between the sexes, have followed; the cultural purpose and centrality of heterosexuality is being increasingly questioned.