Mary Catherine Bateson, an anthropologist and writer of wide-ranging interests whose books included a memoir about her parents, anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and another book about how women “compose” their lives through a series of conflicting responsibilities, died Jan. 2 at a hospice facility in Dartmouth, N.H. She was 81.

She had a fall in the preceding week, said her daughter, Sevanne Margaret Kassarjian.

Dr. Bateson was a multilingual scholar whose first book was titled “Arabic Language Handbook.” She taught at many colleges and universities, including George Mason University in Northern Virginia, and explored the intersections of language, women’s studies, public policy and cross-cultural understanding.

She was also fully aware of growing up in the shadow of her parents, especially of her mother, who was often called the most prominent anthropologist of the 20th century. Mead was already internationally known for her studies of life in Samoa and New Guinea before her daughter, her only child, was born.

Gregory Bateson, Mead’s third husband, was a British-born scholar whose interests included communications, psychiatry and ecology.

In a 1984 memoir, “With a Daughter’s Eye,” Dr. Bateson described the opportunities and pitfalls of a childhood with two formidable, well-known parents. The intellectual ferment was exciting, if sometimes chaotic.

Both parents were often traveling, and Mead had intimate relationships with both men and women throughout her life. Mead and Gregory Bateson separated when their daughter was about 8 and later divorced.

Dr. Bateson lived with Mead in Greenwich Village, but with her mother frequently away for her work, she grew up surrounded by a large network of friends in her building — a communal approach to child-rearing that she later recommended.

“We had the bottom two floors and they had the top and there was a backyard, and it was just terrific,” Dr. Bateson told the New York Times in 2010. “I got free siblings! My mother created a village, and it was wonderful.” (She spent summers in California with her father, who remarried.)

In her teens, Dr. Bateson lived for a year in Israel, where she became fluent in Hebrew. The experience helped define her life for decades, as she traveled widely and quickly absorbed languages and cultures. Her daughter said she could grasp the basic structure of a new language within two weeks.

Dr. Bateson learned Tagalog while living in the Philippines and Farsi while teaching in Iran during the 1970s. She taught at Iranian universities, lecturing in Farsi at a graduate-school level.

She and her family fled Iran in 1979 at the time of the cleric-led revolution, leaving many of their possessions behind. Dr. Bateson later became the dean of faculty at Amherst College in Massachusetts and briefly served as acting president until being ousted by a male-dominated faculty committee.

“Amherst was still caught in the set of inherited attitudes that defined any woman as an outsider,” she wrote in “Composing a Life” (1989), which became something of a manifesto for women redefining their lives. “My optimism, which survived the Iranian revolution, was shattered by my experiences there.”

In “Composing a Life,” Dr. Bateson described how she and four other women managed to organize their lives amid conflicting social, professional and familial demands. She disliked the term “juggling” to describe the multiple responsibilities placed on women, saying in 1996, “If I try to juggle, I will drop something: my job, my child, my husband, my community.”

Instead, she wrote about “composing a life,” about using the mosaic of a woman’s experience to build a career, a family, a set of values and a network of friends as if creating a work of art through improvisation.

The book was not an immediate success, but within a year or two it began to make bestseller lists, as readers — mostly women — bought multiple copies for reading groups and friends. Dr. Bateson spoke at forums across the country, urging her readers and listeners not to be limited by social expectations and to pursue education and develop new skills throughout life.

“Having to pay attention to more than one thing at a time,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 1991, “thinking about relationships, family, children, as well as about work — and not being able to turn it off — means that women have a capacity for complexity that men have not been encouraged to develop.”

Mary Catherine Bateson was born Dec. 8, 1939, in New York. She attended private schools before graduating in 1960 from Radcliffe College, a former women’s college in Cambridge, Mass., affiliated with Harvard University. She received a doctorate in linguistics and Middle Eastern languages from Harvard in 1963.

She was on the faculties of many colleges, including George Mason, where she taught one semester a year from 1989 to 2004. In recent years, she was a visiting scholar at Boston College.

Dr. Bateson wrote numerous books, including works on AIDS and racial identity, and completed her father’s final book, “Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred,” after his death in 1980. Her mother died in 1978.

In 2010, Dr. Bateson published “Composing a Further Life,” a follow-up to her earlier book, and in 2019 was the co-author with Richard Goldsby of “Thinking Race,” which held that racial identities are largely determined by social constructs.

Survivors include her husband of 60 years, J. Barkev Kassarjian, a retired management professor, of Hancock, N.H.; their daughter Sevanne Margaret Kassarjian, an actress sometimes known as Sevanne Martin, of Hancock; a half sister; and two grandsons.

In 1994, Dr. Bateson published “Peripheral Vision: Learning Along the Way,” which she called “a book of stories and reflections strung together to suggest a style of learning from experience.”

Among other things, Dr. Bateson recommended that children be exposed to art from an early age because an appreciation of the aesthetic “demonstrates that two people can look at the same mountain and see something different.”