Learning About Menstruation

Sheryl Mendlinger, Julie Cwikel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traditionally, the older females in an extended family instructed young women about the various aspects of the life cycle including puberty, menstruation, sex, reproduction, and child care. The Israeli immigration process has changed social relationships and family structures which in turn shape the intergenerational transfer of knowledge. As a result over the past few decades other sources of knowledge have become important sources of knowledge for young women. These include her peers, school, scientific research information, doctors, and commercial materials. This paper focuses on the types of knowledge that a mother passes on to her daughter in relation to puberty, preparedness for menstruation and the onset of her first menses. This paper presents a theoretical analysis of qualitative, ethnographic research collected from 48 in-depth interviews with 4 mother and daughter pairs from each of the following groups: native born Israelis and veteran and recent immigrants from Europe, North Africa the CIS (Commonwealth Independent States), Ethiopia, and USA origin, who settled in the Negev area of Israel. The unique contribution of this study lies in its examination of the onset of menstruation (menarche) among women from diverse cultures who immigrated to the same country, i.e. Israel. Menarche is a special milestone in the life of adolescent girls and it appears that the type of knowledge acquisition related to this event may influence her attitudes and behaviors toward other critical health issues in the future. The analysis produced several categories of knowledge including: traditional knowledge, technical knowledge, embodied knowledge and authoritative knowledge. It appears that the types of knowledge that are passed on from mother to daughter are changed through the immigration process, often from traditional to more technical. We found that for many daughters the knowledge that they obtain from their mothers is very important for the daughters' overall well being and good health. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities & Nations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • EXTENDED families
  • SOCIAL interaction
  • QUALITATIVE research
  • PRIMARY care
  • Immigrants
  • Israel
  • Mother-Daughter Knowledge Transmission
  • Qualitative Research
  • Women's Health


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