Childhood Studies Mothers
by
Terri Apter
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0009

Introduction

“Mother” is a female parent. The term has powerful associations, and its meanings extend far beyond this specific designation. Normally, it encompasses the biological relationship of giving birth, but it is also associated with the activities of caring for a child (sometimes called “mothering”), and therefore “mother” can refer to a woman who undertakes care of a child, whether or not she is the biological mother. There is no other topic in which social norms and ideals are so powerfully interconnected, and discussions of these form an essential part of the subject. The topic “mothers” cannot be considered without looking at social norms of “good mother,” the quality of the care she provides, and the impact on a child’s well-being. These, in turn, are shaped by psychological theories about a child’s need for a mother, and theories are shaped sometimes by research, sometimes by social, economic, and political forces. The breadth of this topic, the ever-changing meanings of “mother,” and the passion of the continuing discourses about “mother” make it impossible to compile a bibliography solely with textbooks and reference works.

General Overviews

A key issue in the topic of mothers is whether being a mother in the broad sense of caring for a child is instinctive or learned. The biological fact that a female gives birth is sometimes taken as proof that mothering is also instinctive and that there is a biological basis for social expectations that the child’s primary carer should be the female parent. The work of Harry Harlow on monkeys (Harlow 1962, cited under Early Attunement) undercuts the view that a female parent’s ability to care for her infant is instinctive. Instead, the author’s disturbing studies suggest that the experience of being cared for as an infant is crucial in learning how to care for one’s own infants. From a very different theoretical perspective, Chodorow 1978 showed how the psychology of mothering may be reproduced by common family structures: girls and boys are generally raised by mothers, and this affects their self-development in different ways, so that girls grow into adults who are likely to “mother” and boys grow into adults who are likely not to “mother.” Gilligan 1982 developed the concept of an “ethic of care”: the finding that women were more likely than men to put consideration of others’ needs at the center of their decision making was interpreted by some to show that women were naturally carers of others. Parallel debates about the quality of a mother’s care and the child’s requirements for a certain kind of mother’s love continue, and Cozolino 2006 brings together new neurological findings showing the impact of a caregiver’s empathy and responsiveness on a baby’s developing brain. The powerful experiences of a caregiver’s empathic absorption in an infant are described by Winnicott 1975, and the impact of maternal focus on politics is developed by Ruddick 1989, whose exploration of the links between ethics and maternal experience and identity is developed by Baraitser 2008, while the economic costs and the lack of economic value given to caring labor are exposed by Folbre 2001. These issues are brought together by Rich 1976, whose account of motherhood as experience and social institution highlights continuing paradoxes and tensions in the topic of mothers. The online journal Studies in the Maternal contains articles that extend and develop these critical debates.

  • Baraitser, Lisa. Maternal Encounters: The Ethics of Interruption. London and New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Elegantly combines individual experiences and theoretical analysis of the subjectivity of mothering. The impact and disruption to a woman’s identity of love and care present new possibilities for understanding the ethics of relationship. Winner of the 2009 Feminist and Women’s Studies Association (United Kingdom and Ireland) Book Award.

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    • Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

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      Seminal, fascinating book outlining the argument that mother as primary carer is not a biological essential but a product of social practices. The different ways boys and girls develop a gender identity means that girls raised by mothers are psychologically primed to mother, and boys raised as mothers are less likely to find mothering roles “natural.”

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      • Cozolino, Louis. The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment and the Developing Social Brain. New York: Norton, 2006.

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        Excellent overview of recent findings on the neural impacts of that early “foundational relationship” between mother and infant. Whereas many discussions of “bonding” focus on smell or touch, Cozolino emphasizes the learning powers and pleasures of visual interaction.

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        • Folbre, Nancy. The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values. New York: New Press, 2001.

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          An economist takes an original view of the discrepancy between social and economic value in the context of caring labor. As a result of this discrepancy, mothers’ ability to provide personal and loving care is being eroded.

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          • Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

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            This culture-shaping study of the different ways people consider moral dilemmas may not directly discuss mothers, but it has enormous impact on society’s view of women as particularly fit for mothers. Or so it seems, until a careful reading shows that Gilligan does not assert that one style is necessarily male and the other female.

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            • Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. London: Virago, 1976.

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              This classic memoir offers an original and provocative examination of motherhood. Containing extracts from her journal, Rich exposes personal doubts about wanting to be a mother, along with some negative feelings toward her children. An important and courageous critique of the socially enforced concept of mother-love as perfect and constant.

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              • Ruddick, Sara. Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace. New York: Ballantine, 1989.

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                The “private” virtues of mothering are brought into the public sphere in this important contribution to moral philosophy. The practice of mothering—preserving the life of a child, promoting the growth of a child, training the child for social participation—is explored as a model for a peaceful society.

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                • Studies in the Maternal.

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                  Edited by Lisa Baraitser and Sigal Spigel and published twice a year since 2009, this journal contains interdisciplinary articles, essays, and reviews on cultural representations of maternity, subjective experiences of pregnancy and motherhood, and the political and social constraints and possibilities that arise from these. A useful source for continuing debates and discussions on mothers, mothering, and maternal images.

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                  • Winnicott, Donald W. “Primary Maternal Preoccupation.” In Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis: Collected Papers. By Donald W. Winnicott, 300–305. New York: Basic Books, 1975.

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                    Winnicott’s work emphasizes the need for maternal sensitivity. His statement “There is no such thing as a baby” highlights the significant unit as a symbiotic relationship, mother-and-baby. In this short and very dense paper, he argues speculatively that the mother’s psychology after birth adapts to the infant’s psychological needs. Original work published in 1956.

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                    History

                    The historical context changes the meaning of mother. “Mother” is so often assumed to have a permanent structure of behavior, but Apple and Golden 1997 brings together studies of different historical practices showing the way a mother’s life, situated in a time and place, shaped the concept of motherhood. Hrdy 2009 takes a more wide-ranging look at the impact of mothering behavior on human evolution. The mystery of how humans evolved into cooperative primates can be answered only with an appreciative understanding of the demands of our slow-developing and energy-consuming offspring, which would have required parenting within a network of mothering figures, not the isolated primary carer familiar in the early 21st century. It is this model of the mother as primarily responsible for significant care that is targeted by the expert offerings collected in Ehrenreich and English 2005. Schwartz 2010 and Kennedy 2009 look at specific social practices of becoming a mother in the antebellum South, while Mink 1996 argues that policies intended to support mothers are often shaped by assumptions about different motherhoods, according to race. See Davis 2012, Hackworth Petersen and Salzman-Mitchell 2012, and Thane and Evans 2012.

                    • Apple, Rima D., and Janet Golden, eds. Mothers & Motherhood: Readings in American History. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1997.

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                      An anthology of historical studies of mothers and motherhood offering examples of how images of motherhood are constructed and how they affect mothers. Mostly worthy; sometimes fascinating.

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                      • Davis, Angela. Modern Motherhood: Women and Family in England, 1945–2000. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2012.

                        DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719084553.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

                        While focusing on a limited sample of married mothers in Oxfordshire, the presentation of personal experience is carefully placed in the context of institutional structures surrounding motherhood. The unreliability of reported personal history also emerges.

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                        • Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Dierdre English. For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women. New York: Anchor, 2005.

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                          First published in 1978, this classic history of “expert” advice to women—especially to mothers—shows how easily science itself can be interpreted with bias and ignorance. Expert advice, particularly on the topic of mothers and motherhood, remains a daily challenge to mothers, and these authors, while maintaining faith in science, offer supportive skepticism.

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                          • Hackworth Petersen, Laura, and Patricia Salzman-Mitchell, eds. Mothering and Motherhood in Ancient Greece and Rome. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012.

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                            This collection of essays makes connections between ancient and modern issues surrounding motherhood, including changes in sexuality and family dynamics at the birth of a child. A refreshing look at prostitutes as mothers is included. While historical sources of personal experiences are slight, references to motherhood in Greek tragedy are vivid.

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                            • Hrdy, Sarah Blaffer. Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

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                              Raising children is essentially a cooperative venture, the anthropologist author argues, as a result of “alloparenting,” or having several parental carers. The implications are that mothering requires social support, and that the model of biological mother as (virtually) sole carer is out of sync with evolved patterns of care.

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                              • Kennedy, V. Lynn. Born Southern: Childbirth, Motherhood and Social Networks in the Old South. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

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                                A social history of childbirth and infant nurture that combines primary research and synthesis. While far more material on white women’s experience is documented here, it is a scholarly and original analysis of how birth and race affected social networks and social constraints.

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                                • Mink, Gwendolyn. The Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State, 1917–1942. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996.

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                                  Of interest as a study of women and politics during this specific period in the United States, but also useful as an example of how the topic of motherhood becomes a focus for women’s political and social position.

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                                  • Schwartz, Marie Jenkins. Birthing a Slave: Motherhood and Medicine in the Antebellum South. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

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                                    Letters, journals, medical records, and Works Progress Administration interviews provide a strikingly intimate view of pregnancy and childbirth among enslaved African Americans. Fills a gap in other accounts of motherhood during this period.

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                                    • Thane, Pat, and Tanya Evans. Sinners? Scroungers? Saints? Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth-Century England. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

                                      DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199578504.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                      This account of single motherhood in 20th-century England highlights poverty as a persistent problem that is passed on from generation to generation.

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                                      Social Meanings

                                      The social images of “mother” change according to economic and political changes, though they often become part of the process. As writers identify and explore social meanings of “mother,” people themselves engage with these images in new ways. The key literature looking at the social meanings of “mother” might suggest the impossibility of motherhood. Chodorow and Contratto 1989 suggests that a mother’s significance to a child has a legacy of idealization that a mother can never live up to, whereas Dinnerstein 1987 argued that in a patriarchal society a mother’s power over the boy leads to his denigrating her when he becomes a man. Warner 2005 looks at the impact of maternal idealization on the mother herself, arguing that as women internalize the need to perform as a perfect mother, they perpetuate what the author identifies as a cultural myth, namely, that mothers must control and perfect their children; this results in a “perfect madness” in which mothers apply impossible standards to their mothering. Another contradiction in “good mother” is noted by Debold, et al. 1993, as the authors pose the question whether a good mother is one who raises a child to participate in a society that itself promotes false ideals and constraining norms. For Debold and colleagues, the role of the mother in inducting a daughter into a patriarchal society goes some way toward explaining the trend described by Hirsch 1989 that the realist tradition of fictional mothers is an impediment to a daughter’s development. Depictions of “misconceived motherhood” in US films are presented by Addison and Goodwin-Kelly 2009, while Plant 2010 suggests ways of moderating criticism of maternal ideals.

                                      • Addison, Heather, and Mary Kate Goodwin-Kelly, eds. Motherhood Misconceived: Representing the Maternal in US Films. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

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                                        A fresh, up-to-date collection of readings on how motherhood and maternity are represented in films. A nice spread of analysis of a range of maternal types (single, older, transsexual) through relationships, personalities, neuroses, and fears.

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                                        • Chodorow, Nancy, and Susan Contratto. “The Fantasy of the Perfect Mother.” In Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory. Edited by Nancy Chodorow, 79–96. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989.

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                                          Important argument about the impact on social practices and relationships of the unconscious idealization of the mother.

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                                          • Debold, Elizabeth, Marie Wilson, and Idelisse Malavé. Mother Daughter Revolution: From Betrayal to Power. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1993.

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                                            The book poses the startling question of how mother-love can be expressed in a culture that is “hostile to a daughter’s integrity.” The authors show how “a good mother” is expected to induct her daughter into patriarchy and therefore challenges a daughter’s own voice and vision. The authors outline possible routes to a “revolution” through mutual openness. An exciting critique of mothering daughters that is also positive in outlook.

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                                            • Dinnerstein, Dorothy. The Rocking of the Cradle and the Ruling of the World. Rev. 2d ed. London: Women’s Press, 1987.

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                                              First published in 1976, the conceptual analysis of this work remains strong: the power mothers have over infants leaves a disturbing psychological legacy in memories of total dependence. To “master” these humiliating memories, adults denigrate mothers and deny them power.

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                                              • Hirsch, Marianne. The Mother/Daughter Plot: Narrative, Psychoanalysis, Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

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                                                A literary critic takes note of “maternal repression” in the 19th-century realist novel. In other words, the big plots most readers in the United States and Europe are most familiar with treat the mother’s own experience as marginal and the mother as a potential impediment to successful adult development. Sobering and illuminating.

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                                                • Plant, Rebecca Jo. Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

                                                  DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226670232.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                  Perhaps the concept of mother as paragon and the idealization of mother-love should not attract such widespread criticism; as motherhood is seen as an individual choice, being both a mother and human is increasingly difficult. Readable and original.

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                                                  • Warner, Judith. Perfect Madness: Motherhood in an Age of Anxiety. New York: Riverhead, 2005.

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                                                    A provocative argument that contemporary working mothers in the United States are driven to compete as mothers. In a country that offers no economic assistance to working mothers, there is also no psychological support. An example of the interplay between social, cultural, and psychological aspects of mothering.

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                                                    Early Attachment

                                                    Central to the topic of mother is a baby and child’s attachment to her. This foundational relationship is described by Mahler, et al. 1975 as symbiotic: an infant experiences “oneness” with a mother. Three issues arise from this model of the earliest relationship. The first is an exploration of the variation and quality of individual attachments. Standard assessments of attachment patterns are brought together in Ainsworth, et al. 1978. The impact of distorted attachment patterns is explored in a family context by Byng-Hall and Stevenson-Hinde 1991, while a child’s own viewpoint (rather than the observing researcher’s) is explored in Fivush 2006. The second issue is about threat to attachment: What happens when attachment is frustrated by separation? Bowlby 1991 studies attachment alongside loss, and Robertson 1954, a film of a child’s response to separation, had enormous influence in shaping norms about a mother’s continued availability to a child. Feldman, et al. 1999 explores the effect of separation on a mother. The third issue is how a baby emerges from this symbiotic phase to the awareness of a separate self. Winnicott 1947 argues that the process requires the ebbing of a mother’s preoccupation with her baby.

                                                    • Ainsworth, Mary D. Salter, Mary C. Blehar, Everett Waters, and S. Wakk, eds. Patterns of Attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1978.

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                                                      A key collection of papers assessing the quality and nature of children’s attachment to their mothers by observing how quickly a child reconnects with a mother after being separated from her for a short time during which they are subject to “strange” experiences.

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                                                      • Bowlby, John. Attachment and Loss. Vol. 1, Attachment. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1991.

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                                                        The foundational work on attachment theory. The importance of a child’s secure attachment to a mother is key to attachment theory (used by many to explain personality development and psychopathology) and remains a guiding force in theory and research. Different styles of attachment are described, and different outcomes of each category are presented.

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                                                        • Byng-Hall, John, and Joan Stevenson-Hinde. “Attachment Relationships within a Family System.” Infant Mental Health Journal 12.3 (1991): 187–200.

                                                          DOI: 10.1002/1097-0355(199123)12:3%3C187::AID-IMHJ2280120306%3E3.0.CO;2-OSave Citation »Export Citation »

                                                          While many psychologists look at the way an infant internalizes the image of the mother, this article explores “parentification,” or the expectation that a child will fulfill a parent’s role in the family. Here, a focus is on the way mothers of disorganized and controlling children are found to see themselves as helpless and see the child as the competent carer.

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                                                          • Feldman, Ruth, Aron Weller, James F. Leckman, Jacob Kuint, and Arthur I. Eidelman. “The Nature of the Mother’s Tie to Her Infant: Maternal Bonding under Conditions of Proximity, Separation, and Potential Loss.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 40.6 (1999): 929–939.

                                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0021963099004308Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                            The authors focus on the mother’s experience of attachment in different relational contexts: with full-term infants, with healthy premature infants, and with low-birth-weight premature infants from whom mothers are separated for long periods. While the findings are not surprising, they suggest abiding human patterns to separation and threat of loss.

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                                                            • Fivush, Robyn. “Scripting Attachment: Generalized Event Representations and Internal Working Models.” Attachment & Human Development 8.3 (2006): 283–289.

                                                              DOI: 10.1080/08912960600858935Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                              A useful move toward exploring children’s own experiences of their attachment to a mother through their stories (or “narratives”) about everyday family situations. A possible tool for grounding children’s experience of maternal attachment in their actual (as opposed to theorized) experiences.

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                                                              • Mahler, Margaret, Fred Pine, and Anni Bergman. The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: Symbiosis and Individuation. New York: Basic Books, 1975.

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                                                                An influential model of a child’s emerging sense of self. The authors theorize that an infant initially sees himself or herself as symbiotically attached to a mother and only subsequently understands that each has a separate identity. To weather this developmentally necessary realization, the child internalizes the mother so that she is “there” offering support and guidance even during times of physical absence. Without an internalized mother, a child is at risk for insecurity and low self-esteem.

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                                                                • Robertson, James. A Two-Year-Old Goes to Hospital. Film. London: Tavistock Child Development Research Unit, 1954.

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                                                                  This film is of a child going through various stages of distress at a mother’s absence, issuing into a state of despair and disengagement. It was influential in changing hospital policies on parents in children’s wards, but it also was used to suggest that mothers who left a child for the course of the working day were inflicting emotional harm.

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                                                                  • Winnicott, Donald W. The Child, the Family and the Outside World. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1947.

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                                                                    A healthy self develops when a mother is available to the infant, but optimally the mother moves away from maternal preoccupation to allow the infant to experience the outside world. If a mother does not produce a holding environment wherein the mother recedes from the early maternal preoccupation but is nevertheless there to comfort and soothe when the outside world is too distressing, then the infant’s psychological development is impeded by impingement.

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                                                                    Early Attunement

                                                                    The belief that infants love and need a mother for food alone was debunked Harlow 1962, which found that infant monkeys preferred cloth-covered models without food offerings to wire mesh models that offered food. A human infant’s need for a mother is far more complex. Human babies crave a mother’s attention, and the fine details of attention, curiosity, and response are called attunement. While attachment theory is consistent with a focus on attunement, there is a significant difference in how the foundational mother–infant relationship is modeled. Stern 2000 speaks about “intersubjectivity” rather than attachment because the author sees the infant as born into an interpersonal relationship. From a very early age, the infant and mother communicate in a close, loving, searching “dance,” in which each responds to and delights in the other. Speech, too, demonstrates responsiveness, and Fernald 1989 follows mothers’ comforting and questioning utterances that constitute a special “motherese” that complements eye-to-eye engagement. Trevarthen 1993 expands descriptions of the conversational behavior that can be seen in close observation of mother and baby. Fonagy, et al. 1991 develops this finding further, showing that a caretaker’s (generally the mother’s) attentiveness to a baby’s movements and sounds is central to the baby’s basic understanding of being a person and living in a world with other people. Fonagy and colleagues use the term “mentalizing” to theorize on how a baby learns that he or she is able to communicate inner feelings and thoughts. Cirulli, et al. 2003 shows that failure to enjoy the positive stimulation of a mother’s attunement reduces the brain’s ability to learn and grow throughout a child’s life.

                                                                    • Cirulli, E., A. Berry, and E. Alleva. “Early Disruption of the Mother-Infant Relationship: Effects on Brain Plasticity and Implications for Psychopathology.” Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews 27.1–2 (2003): 73–82.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/S0149-7634(03)00010-1Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                      Recent findings in neuroscience continue to highlight the complex significance of mothering that shape individual differences in physiological and behavioral responses to difficult experiences. This article shows the impacts on brain development of disruption to the mother–infant relationship. Most important, the impact may be long-standing, because positive early brain development is correlated with increased brain plasticity (the ability to adapt and learn) in later stages of development.

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                                                                      • Fernald, Anne. “Intonation and Communicative Interest in Mothers’ Speech to Infants: Is the Melody the Message?” Child Development 60 (1989): 1497–1510.

                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/1130938Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                        Here, mothers’ vocalization to infants is promoted from babble or cooing to “motherese.” A mother’s loving curiosity and concern are expressed in a “breathy” voice, with melodic raising and lowering of the pitch. A scientific description of everyday observance, but a good record of the importance of mothering behavior.

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                                                                        • Fonagy, Peter, H. Steele, and M. Steele. “Maternal Representations of Attachment during Pregnancy Predict Infant-Mother Attachment Patterns at One Year.” Child Development 62 (1991): 891–905.

                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/1131141Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                          The ways mothering styles are passed down from generation to generation are assessed in one of the first studies to see whether a mother’s early attachment experiences with her mother can predict her attachment to her own child.

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                                                                          • Harlow, Harry F. “Development of Affection in Primates.” In Roots of Behavior: Genetics, Instinct, and Socialization in Animal Behavior. Edited by Eugene L. Bliss, 157–166. New York: Harper, 1962.

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                                                                            Harlow’s work remains important in conceptualizing the difference between mother-love and cupboard love. This article shows results on an experiment in which infant monkeys were separated from their mother at birth and offered two substitutes, one wire mesh offering food and warmth, the other covered in cloth. The infants preferred the cloth-covered surrogate.

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                                                                            • Stern, Daniel. The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

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                                                                              A seminal source showing that the infant is born within an interpersonal relationship, not a primitive symbiotic oneness. First published in 1985, the account of what can go right and what can go wrong in early interactions complements more recent work on the neurological impact of early interaction.

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                                                                              • Trevarthen, Colwyn. “The Self Born in Intersubjectivity: An Infant Communicating.” In The Perceived Self: Ecological and Interpersonal Sources of Self-Knowledge. Edited by Ulric Neisser, 121–173. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                Analysis of video and audio data shows how an infant can join with a mother in “cycles of expression” and an exchange of “utterances.” Mothering is not simply offering care and love but also being attuned to the infant’s expressions. The research shows that an infant becomes self-aware in a relationship, and the emphasis in this research is on a mutual dynamic, or intersubjectivity, rather than on bonding or attachment.

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                                                                                Mothers and their Mothers

                                                                                While the impact of a mother on her child is largely focused on child development, the issue remains as to whether a daughter reproduces her own experiences of being mothered when she becomes a mother. Chodorow 1978 (cited under General Overviews) looks at how a woman’s tendency to care for others might be structured by her experience of having the female parent as her primary carer, but what about the specific patterns of attachment? Fonagy 1999 argues that styles of attachment can be handed down from mother to daughter to grandchild; George, et al. 1996 provides a protocol for relevant interviews to assess attachment styles, and Crittenden 1999 devises a coding manual used for assessing generational similarities of attachment styles. Thomson, et al. 2011 looks at motherhood across three generations of women in the same families, drawing out patterns of similarities and differences in the external environments. Taking on the new field of epigentics, Crabbe and Phillips 2003 offers evidence about the heritability of maternal behavior and the new research on the epigenetics of mothering. But more than a quarter-century beforehand, using nothing more than “talking therapy,” Fraiberg, et al. 1975 presented case studies that suggest a memory context evoked as a mother cares for her child.

                                                                                • Crabbe, J. C., and T. J. Phillips. “Mother Nature Meets Mother Nurture.” Nature Neuroscience 6.5 (2003): 440–442.

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                                                                                  This article uses the important field of epigenetics in explanations of maternal behavior. Genes do not specify behaviors absolutely; the intrauterine environment and postnatal care cooperate to influence behavior in adulthood. In addition, some effects of postnatal rearing can be transmitted to future generations (“epigenetically”). One of the behaviors that can be transmitted epigenetically is maternal behavior.

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                                                                                  • Crittenden, Patricia McKinsey. Adult Attachment Interview: Coding Manual for the Dynamic-Maturational Method. Milan: Cortina, 1999.

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                                                                                    Tool for coding the key interview that shows correlations between a mother’s attachment pattern to her mother and her child’s attachment pattern to her.

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                                                                                    • Fonagy, Peter. “Transgenerational Consistencies of Attachment: A New Theory.” Paper presented to the Developmental and Psychoanalytic Discussion Group, American Psychoanalytic Association Meeting, Washington, DC, 13 May 1999.

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                                                                                      A significant conceptual development in attachment theory, whereby observed correlations between the attachment styles from generation to generation are accounted for in terms of “mental modeling.” It is argued that a parent’s capacity to observe the moment-to-moment changes in the child’s mental state lies at the root of sensitive caregiving.

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                                                                                      • Fraiberg, Selma, Edward Adelson, and V. Shapiro. “Ghosts in the Nursery: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Problems of Impaired Infant-Mother Relationships.” Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry 14 (1975): 387–422.

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                                                                                        A rich, landmark paper describing the impact of a mother’s past experiences, sometimes long forgotten, on her behavior with her child. This has influenced clinical researchers, including Alicia Lieberman and Peter Fonagy.

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                                                                                        • George, Carol, Nancy Kaplan, and Mary Main. Adult Attachment Interview. 3d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

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                                                                                          A useful handbook for conducting an adult attachment interview.

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                                                                                          • Thomson, Rachel, Mary Jane Kehily, Lucy Hadfield, and Sue Sharpe. Making Modern Mothers. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2011.

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                                                                                            Sociological study based on ethnographic interviews with three generations of mothers who reflect on their experiences of motherhood. Examines how motherhood has changed within families and how women respond to the changing social landscapes of motherhood.

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                                                                                            Mothers, Mothering, and Economics

                                                                                            “Mother” is a social institution as well as a biological relationship and, as Taylor, et al. 2004 shows, a marketing opportunity more as consumer than as producer. The care a mother offers her child is seen to play a crucial role in the development of a human who can regulate his or her own feelings and be self-reflective and responsive to others. Some social contexts undermine a mother’s best efforts, but as Feldstein 2000 shows, blaming mothers for a child’s unacceptable behavior can enforce racial divisions. Responding to a child and caring for a child—what Folbre 2001 (cited under General Overviews) calls caring labor—take time and energy. It is, after all, work, just as paid work is, but mothering does not attract payment in most societies. In addition to being unpaid, its demands are inconsistent with offering one’s services to an employer on competitive terms. Offering one’s time and labor on standard terms becomes more difficult in a context in which a mother’s daily presence is seen to be crucial to a child’s well-being. The significant impact a mother has on her child is, for a mother, not simply a neutral research finding but a consideration in some of the most important choices she will make about employment and her family. Whether the subject is approached through a look at women’s subjective experiences of choice, as Apter 1993 considers; whether mothers try to compensate for paid employment by doing everything in the home, as Hochschild and Machung 1990 found; whether financial demands and career goals put strict restrictions on fertility; or whether circumstances prevent lack of control over one’s fertility and lack of employment opportunities, as can be seen in Lekas 2009—negotiations between caring labor and paid labor remain a significant issue for a mother. Goldin and Katz 2008 shows that in some careers, educated mothers have greater flexibility in their decisions about fertility than in others, while Hochschild 2001 illustrates that the workplace can feel more comfortable than the home when day-to-day family life becomes demanding.

                                                                                            • Apter, Terri. Working Women Don’t Have Wives: Professional Success in the 1990s. New York: St. Martin’s, 1993.

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                                                                                              Mothers’ subjective accounts of their experiences of making choices in a context in which they worry about the effects on their children of being unavailable to them during the day and the quality of child care, and in which they express the exhaustion of multiple roles. Trying to attend to her own range of interests and needs is difficult for a mother.

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                                                                                              • Feldstein, Ruth. Motherhood in Black and White: Race and Sex in American Liberalism, 1930–1965. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                A clear analysis of the impact of public policy on race and gender, and a sober reminder that liberal arguments often endorse deeply conservative views of motherhood—particularly the assumption that antisocial behavior in young people is a product of bad mothers.

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                                                                                                • Goldin, Claudia, and Lawrence Katz. “Transitions: Career and Family Life Cycles of the Educational Elite.” American Economic Review 98.2 (2008): 363–369.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.2.363Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                  Two economists look at the trade-offs between family and career among educated women and find that motherhood is postponed for career work.

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                                                                                                  • Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work. New York: Holt, 2001.

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                                                                                                    A sociologist looks at the way some families combine the hard slog of combining work with caring for children and discovers that the structure and relative ease of work time are often chosen by mothers over family time.

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                                                                                                    • Hochschild, Arlie Russell, and Anne Machung. The Second Shift. New York: Avon, 1990.

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                                                                                                      Do working couples share child care? Hochschild and Machung look at working mothers in their homes and see that they opt to take on the second shift of caring labor and housework in order to preserve marital harmony.

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                                                                                                      • Lekas, Helen-Maria. Single Mothers on Welfare in New York City: The Interplay of Gender, Race and Class. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag, 2009.

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                                                                                                        The experience of motherhood is highly dependent on economic context, and more ethnographic studies like this are needed. White single mothers’ experiences are compared with those of African American and Puerto Rican single mothers in New York City.

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                                                                                                        • Taylor, Janelle, Linda Layne, and Danielle Wozniak, eds. Consuming Motherhood. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                          The title says it all: anthropologists, sociologists, and religious studies scholars look at how motherhood and consumption have become entwined and how mothers themselves manage the contradictions in having their worth both beyond price and targeted for consumption. Revealing, disquieting, and entertaining.

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                                                                                                          Infertility

                                                                                                          Many women see motherhood as central to their lives. It remains difficult to explain why people want children, given the high costs children incur and the uncertainty of outcome. The social norms that so often present confusion to a mother about how to mother her children also have an effect on women who do not have children. These norms are expressed in a specific cultural context, as Inhorn and van Balen 2002 reminds us. Longing for a child also has a deeply personal aspect, and Bialosky and Schulman 1998 presents a collection of first-person narratives of the various shapes this longing takes—a longing that Hewlett 2003 sees many women suffer as a result of career choices. Owen and Golombok 2009 examines whether different reproductive technologies are associated with differences in level of warmth and style of discipline at the age of eighteen years. With new reproductive technologies, women’s pursuit of motherhood intersects with medical practices in ways that present, Franklin 1997 shows, new puzzles about motherhood, and the significance of reproductive technologies is not simply whether or not they result in a baby, including the moral issue of commercial surrogate motherhood discussed in Anderson 2000.

                                                                                                          • Anderson, Elizabeth S. “Why Commercial Surrogate Motherhood Unethically Commodifies Women and Children: Reply to McLachlan and Swales.” Health Care Analysis 8.1 (2000): 19–26.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1023/A:1009477906883Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                            A philosopher considers the morality of commercial surrogate motherhood and argues that this practice shows disrespect to mothers because it compromises their “inalienable right to act in the best interest of their children.” In this context, a child becomes property, but a more appropriate view is parental right as a trust to be allocated in the best interests of the child.

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                                                                                                            • Bialosky, Jill, and Helen Schulman, eds. Wanting a Child. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.

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                                                                                                              A powerful anthology of personal essays and short stories about the overwhelming desire to mother a child. This collection singles out the subjective force of maternal desire. It describes the pervasive pain of those who are unable to have or to keep a child. An important source for understanding the question that economists cannot quite answer: Why do people want children?

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                                                                                                              • Franklin, Sarah. Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.4324/9780203414965Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                While much information on the technologies themselves is available, women’s own experiences of reproductive technologies in their pursuit of motherhood are less well explored. Although technologies themselves have moved on since the publication of this book, the descriptions of women puzzling over ethical, personal, and political questions as they engage with assisted reproduction provide useful interpretive analysis.

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                                                                                                                • Hewlett, Sylvia Ann. Baby Hunger: The New Battle for Motherhood. New York: Atlantic, 2003.

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                                                                                                                  An economist looks at the way careers shape women’s choices about the timing of motherhood; unwittingly, many women are infertile by the time they are socially and economically “ready” to be mothers. Sobering and current.

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                                                                                                                  • Inhorn, Marcia, and van Balen, Frank, eds. Infertility Around the Globe: New Thinking on Childlessness, Gender, and Reproductive Technologies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                    If motherhood is central to many women’s lives, then being infertile also has consequences. These consequences are different in different parts of the world, and this collection of essays by seventeen different social scientists offers a helpful overview of the impact and management of infertility in countries and regions including China, India, sub-Saharan Africa, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Egypt, Israel, the United States, and Europe.

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                                                                                                                    • Owen, Lucy, and Susan Golombok. “Families Created by Assisted Reproduction: Parent-Child Relationships in Late Adolescence.” Journal of Adolescence 32.4 (2009): 835–848.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2008.10.008Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                      How does assisted reproduction change family relationships over time? The authors pose the interesting question as to whether the specific reproductive technology is correlated with more or less warmth and/or different styles of discipline. The level-headed approach is enlightening.

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                                                                                                                      Mothers before Birth

                                                                                                                      While a pregnant woman tends to be highly aware of her infant in utero, the status of the fetus—a human with rights, or “just” a fetus—is a heated political and moral issue. Tajani and Ianniruberto 1990 shows that a fetus is responsive to a mother’s laugh or cough, DeCasper, et al. 1994 suggests that the fetus can learn about language from a mother, and Chamberlain 1997 argues that assumptions that the mother–baby relationship begins at birth are the result of a cultural haze obscuring the importance of a relational life before birth.

                                                                                                                      • Chamberlain, David B. “Early and Very Early Parenting: New Territories.” Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health 12.2 (1997): 51–59.

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                                                                                                                        Traditionally in the West, being a mother of a baby starts at birth. Here, the real beginnings of motherhood are seen as conception. The argument is that life before birth involves formative and dynamic interactions with a parent—particularly the mother. Signals are exchanged, games are played, and a range of communication takes place. These interactions are obscured by the “cultural haze” of assumptions about when interactions begin.

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                                                                                                                        • DeCasper, Anthony, Jean-Pierre Lecanuet, Marie-Claire Busnel, Carolyn Granier-Deferre, and Roselyne Mangeais. “Fetal Reactions to Recurrent Maternal Speech.” Infant Behavior and Development 17.2 (1994): 159–164.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/0163-6383(94)90051-5Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                          Intriguing demonstration of prebirth learning from a mother in this French study. Women carrying a baby aged 33 to 37 weeks repeated a nursery rhyme three times a day. After four weeks of “hearing” these rhymes, babies showed recognition of the spoken rhyme but no recognition of a different rhyme.

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                                                                                                                          • Tajani, E., and A. Ianniruberto. “The Uncovering of Fetal Competence.” In Development, Handicap, Rehabilitation: Practice and Theory. Edited by M. Papini, A. Pasquinelli, and E. A. Gidoni, 3–8. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 1990.

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                                                                                                                            The findings that most fetuses between 10 and 15 weeks begin to move within seconds of a mother’s laugh or cough mark the early sensitivity to the maternal environment. Wider implications are that mother and baby share an emotional as well as a physiological environment. Mothering begins earlier than is often supposed.

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                                                                                                                            Mothers after Birth

                                                                                                                            Birth is a powerful experience with emotional and physical impacts. The minute-to-minute changes in human milk documented by Zivkovic, et al. 2010 provide an example of the complex mother–baby system. The so-called affiliative hormone, oxytocin, is seen by Uvnäs Moberg 2003 as an explanation of bonding, though Stern and Bruschweiller-Stern 1998 describes the impact on a mother’s psychology in very different terms. The psychological shifts in becoming a mother are sometimes problematic, and Paradice 2002 provides a useful update on how contemporary versions of personal identity can disrupt a mother’s mood and health. Mauthner 2002 offers a valuable study of depressed mothers’ experience, while Cusk 2001 is a deeply personal memoir showing not so much the suffering as the disorientation of early motherhood. Murray and Cooper 1997 shows that postnatal depression has long-term and devastating impacts on a child. Di Blasio and Ionio 2003 presents a more general exploration of mothers’ own birth stories, using narrative methods to conduct academic psychology. More basic levels of maternal health are also crucial to women’s and babies’ well-being, and Trends in Maternal Mortality provides useful data for further analysis.

                                                                                                                            • Cusk, Rachel. A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother. London: Fourth Estate, 2001.

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                                                                                                                              Powerful memoir of a version of postnatal depression that encompasses many common experiences of a mother of infants. The book is described as a letter to women, in the hope that they can bridge the isolation of new maternity. The distorted timeline conveys the disorientation of fatigue. The author sees the baby as her master. As a mother, she feels both necessary and discounted. Common childcare manuals are satirized in light of a mother’s real experience.

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                                                                                                                              • Di Blasio, Paola, and Chiara Ionio. “Childbirth and Narratives: How Do Mothers Deal with Their Child’s Birth?” Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health 17.2 (2003): 143–151.

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                                                                                                                                Mothers themselves construct stories about a child’s birth. Here, the authors look at mothers’ own descriptions of births to explore meanings. Part of a growing body of qualitative narrative research on the mothers’ own construction of meaning.

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                                                                                                                                • Mauthner, Natasha. The Darkest Days of My Life: Stories of Postpartum Depression. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                  The expectations of the joy of motherhood are sometimes dashed by the exhaustion, isolation, and stress that accompany early mothering. While the thirty-five British and American women interviewed see their condition either as a failure of strength or as a result of uncontrolled hormones, their stories also reveal social conditions that either exacerbate or relieve their depression.

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                                                                                                                                  • Murray, Lynne, and Peter J. Cooper, eds. Postpartum Depression and Child Development. New York: Guilford, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                    Depression following the birth of a child (sometimes called postpartum depression, sometimes called postnatal depression) is experienced by one or two of every ten women. The authors consolidate a wealth of their research and that of others in this book, which is geared to anyone dealing with mothers and babies. Here, the effect on a child is considered. The impacts are long-lasting and include intellectual and emotional development.

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                                                                                                                                    • Paradice, Ruth. Psychology for Midwives. Current Issues in Midwifery. Dinton, UK: Quay Books/Mark Allen, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                      A helpful look into the psychological and social issues that midwives in the United Kingdom are encouraged to consider in their professional approach to pregnant and new mothers. Of particular interest is Paradice’s argument that postnatal depression for many women is a matter of grieving for a lost lifestyle. Using this model, about 20 percent of mothers have been found to experience depression.

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                                                                                                                                      • Stern, Daniel N., and Nadia Bruschweiller-Stern. The Birth of a Mother: How the Motherhood Experience Changes You Forever. New York: Basic Books, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                        If mothering in humans (and some other primates) is not instinctive, then how is it learned? The authors describe a “maternal constellation” whereby the mother’s preoccupation and focus are on the baby. This experience changes her psychology, making it seem that learned maternal behavior is instinctive.

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                                                                                                                                        • Uvnäs Moberg, Kerstin. The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, and Healing. New York: Da Capo, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                          A Swedish psychologist’s own experience of motherhood helped her formulate the pivotal significance of oxytocin in “the calm and connection system,” comparable in human importance to the fight-or-flight response. She explores the role of the “healing nectar” in personal and social connections.

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                                                                                                                                          • World Health Organization, UNICEF, United Nations Population Fund, and the World Bank. Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2008. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                            Millennium development goals call for the reduction of maternal mortality, yet progress can be assessed only if reliable maternal mortality data are available. These estimates have been developed by WHO, UNICEF, UNFEPA, and the World Bank and present trends in maternal morality at country, regional, and global levels.

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                                                                                                                                            • Zivkovic, Angela M., J. Bruce German, Carlito B. Lebrilla, and David A. Mills. “Human Milk Glycobiome and Its Impact on the Infant Gastrointestinal Microbiota.” PNAS 108 (2010): 4653–4658.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1000083107Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                              This article takes a broad view of new research showing the complex sensitivity of human milk to an infant’s needs. An interesting companion to new neurological research showing the psychological impact of early mother–infant interaction.

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                                                                                                                                              Maternal Ambivalence

                                                                                                                                              Maternal ambivalence consists of two different themes: the child’s ambivalence toward the mother and the mother’s ambivalence about a child. The infant’s dependence on a mother as the source of food, safety, and learning issues in resentment when a mother does not immediately satisfy the baby’s wishes. Klein 1984 gives the term “envy” to a child’s anger and frustration against an object that possesses but withholds (even temporarily) what the child needs and posits a child’s sense (or fantasy) of “the good breast” and “the bad breast” that have to be integrated in a more realistic sense of an imperfect person with whom the child can sustain a positive relationship. For Dinnerstein 1987 (cited under Social Meanings), the envy and humiliation of early frustrations are incorporated in a social structure in which women are deprived of power by adult males and despised by adult women. Benjamin 1994 sees a more flexible adult response, theorizing that a baby’s emerging sense of self is a process involving struggle and anger. The mother’s role is to show that she can survive the baby’s murderous feelings, so that the baby then can pursue his or her own interests securely. Friday 1997 draws on Klein’s model to explain the author’s observations that mothers can express envy toward a child—particularly a daughter—with whom she identifies. Parker 1995 explores how a mother generally tries to protect a child from her own ambivalence; these mixed feelings are then expressed as self-reproach and depression.

                                                                                                                                              • Benjamin, J. “The Omnipotent Mother: A Psychological Study of Fantasy and Reality.” In Representations of Motherhood. Edited by Donna Bassin, Margaret Honey, and Meryle Mahrer Kaplan, 129–146. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                A significant look from a psychoanalyst at the recurring theme of transition from a symbiotic mother–baby phase to an independent self. In this process, the baby feels destructive fantasies and murderous hatred. The original twist in Benjamin’s theory is that a mother’s desire for an interaction with the outside world is a positive force in the child’s psychological development.

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                                                                                                                                                • Friday, Nancy. My Mother/My Self: The Daughter’s Search for Identity. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                  Drawing on interviews with women, fiction, poetry, and her own reminiscence, the author explores the uneasy balance between love and dependence between mothers and their daughters. Largely written from the viewpoint of a daughter who feels betrayed by a mother’s control of her sexuality and identity, this book continues to speak to many women who struggle with a lack of honesty and absence of recognition from their mothers. Originally published in 1977 (New York: Dell).

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                                                                                                                                                  • Klein, Melanie. Envy and Gratitude, and Other Works, 1946–1963. New York: Free Press, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                    The theory outlined here lays the groundwork for Kleinian analysis. A baby’s dependence on a mother as the source of food leads to idealization of the “good breast,” and destructive impulses (identified as envy) toward a “bad breast” that withholds itself from time to time. These two aspects of a mother are gradually integrated into a person with whom one can have a loving relationship. Originally published in 1975 (London: Hogarth).

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                                                                                                                                                    • Parker, Rozsika. Torn in Two: The Experience of Maternal Ambivalence. London: Virago, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                      A development of and challenge to the perspective of Klein 1984 through clinical accounts of mothers’ efforts to prevent their maternal ambivalence from affecting a child. Parker argues for a change in perspective in which maternal ambivalence is managed sensitively by a mother herself, whereby self-reproach and depression can be avoided only by dismantling the idealization and denigration of mother.

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                                                                                                                                                      Mothers after Childhood

                                                                                                                                                      The great majority of interest in mothers is on mothers of infants and young children. Balint 1949 argues that this relationship does not generally change and that each remains fixed in age-inappropriate stances vis-à-vis the other. For Main, et al. 1985, too, the relationship remains fixed: Early Attachment styles with a mother are seen as continuing lifelong. However, Apter 2004 argues that the teen’s relationship with a mother is still being shaped, and Baruch and Barnett 1983 sees a good relationship with a mother as playing an important role in adult women’s well-being (see also Apter 2012). While caring for elderly relatives is often seen as a burden, Stueve and O’Donnell 1984 shows adult daughters’ continuing need for a mother, including their need for her to be at peace. Most research on adults and their mothers looks at daughters; further research on sons and mothers would be welcomed.

                                                                                                                                                      • Apter, Terri. You Don’t Really Know Me: Why Mothers & Daughters Fight and How Both Can Win. New York: Norton, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                        This book challenges the theory that a teenager is trying to achieve a psychological separation from a mother. Instead, teens are observed to aim to renegotiate their close relationship so it is more in keeping with their self-image. Sometimes this renegotiation involves conflict. Also see the author’s Altered Loves: Mothers and daughters during Adolescence (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1991).

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                                                                                                                                                        • Apter, Terri. Difficult Mothers: Understanding and Overcoming their Power. New York: Norton, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                          A neuropsychological account of early attachment sets the context for analysis of the special difficulties that are sometimes experienced between mother and adult son or daughter. The relational dilemmas described could be used to model many interpersonal difficulties, but the case is made that when the powerful maternal relationship is difficult, much energy is expended in attempts to resolve the difficulties.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Balint, A. “Love for the Mother and Mother-Love.” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 30 (1949): 251–259.

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                                                                                                                                                            Balint argues that the mother-love is intended only for the very young child, and consequently mothers continue to think of their child of any age as their “little one.” Children reciprocate by seeing a mother as they saw her in infancy, as someone to gratify their needs.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Baruch, G., and R. Barnett. “Adult Daughters’ Relationships with Their Mothers: The Era of Good Feelings.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 45 (1983): 601–606.

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                                                                                                                                                              One of the few studies assessing the importance to midlife women of their relationship with their mothers. An interesting look at the way being cared for by a mother offers comfort even to independent dults.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Main, Mary, Nancy Kaplan, and J. Cassidy. “Security in Infancy, Childhood and Adulthood: A Move to the Level of Representation.” In Growing Points of Attachment Theory and Research. Edited by Inge Bretherton and Everett Waters, 66–104. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 50.1–2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                Influential argument that interviews of adults can indicate what style of attachment they had to their mothers.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Stueve, A., and L. O’Donnell. “The Daughters of Aging Parents.” In Women in Midlife. Edited by Grace Baruch and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 203–225. New York: Plenum, 1984.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4684-7823-5Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  The authors pick up on the importance of reciprocal care and the long attachment adults have for their mothers. They show how the need to be connected to a mother persists but changes through the decades of adulthood.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Loss of Mother

                                                                                                                                                                  Given the importance of a mother, what impact does losing a mother have on a child? The dire effects seen in the mother-deprived monkeys described by Harlow 1962 (cited under Early Attunement) are rarely found in children who lose their mothers, though some of the children in Romania’s so-called orphanages, who showed symptoms of extreme disturbance, having been kept on cots for 23 hours a day and sometimes drugged, come close. Taking into account the self-shaping impact of the process Fonagy, et al. 1991 (cited under Early Attunement) calls “mentalizing” and the neural growth shown in studies discussed by Cozolino 2006 (cited under General Overviews), these young children exhibited the effects of poor stimulation and stress. Rutter 2002 observed the children who were adopted into Western families, and they had difficulty forming attachments, though subsequent care resulted in some improvement. Most stories of mother loss are less extreme, though Black 2004 asks, “If experience of her mother shapes the way a woman herself becomes a mother, what is the story of a woman who has not had a mother?” Her own sense of lacking a “map of motherhood” leads to a theoretical exploration of whether attachment patterns—found by Main, et al. 1985 (cited under Mothers after Childhood) to be intergenerational—can be changed. Loss of a mother in the teen years changes the family around one, and as Edelman 1995 discovered, a daughter who loses a mother can be positioned by other family members as her replacement.

                                                                                                                                                                  • Black, Kathryn. Mothering without a Map: The Search for the Good Mother Within. New York: Viking, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                    The author interviews fifty women who lost a mother or who were for some reason “under-mothered” and describes their subjective experiences as mother. Black herself lost her mother at the age of 6 and weaves her own experiences of motherless child and mothering a child into discussions of attachment theory.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Edelman, Hope. Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Hope. New York: Delta Trade, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                      The impact of losing a mother is explored by the author, whose mother died when she was seventeen years old. In this context, a daughter may be positioned by other family members as someone who takes on a mother’s roles and at the same time feel she has no internal model for mother.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Rutter, Michael. “Nature, Nurture, and Development: From Evangelism through Science toward Policy and Practice.” Child Development 73.1 (January–February 2002): 1–21.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/1467-8624.00388Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        The orphans discovered in Romania after 1989 were deprived of reasonable care. The lack of mothering—in the broadest sense—affected the children’s emotional, intellectual, and social development. Rutter led a study of the orphans adopted into Western families. The challenges were great, yet there was only a 1 percent rate of adoption failure, and most children showed some improvement.

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                                                                                                                                                                        The Diversity of Mothers

                                                                                                                                                                        The definition of mother as “female parent” often assumes a biological link as the woman who gave birth to the child, but the meaning of parent is very broad. The cultural sensitivities to mothering raise special issues whenever a female parent shows some variation from prevalent norms. Phoenix, et al. 1991 presents a range of arguments showing how dominant ideologies about motherhood conflict with the varieties of maternal experiences and behavior. Even very common differences, such as working mothers, older-than-average mothers, younger-than-average mothers, and mothers whose children have a disability, are seen by mothers themselves as a challenge to their value or effectiveness as a mother. Other familiar but different mothering practices involve adoptive mothers, lesbian mothers, and stepmothers. When a child is adopted, does a mother feel the same kind of love as does the woman who has given birth to the child? Waterman 2003, without casting doubt on mothers’ love for adopted children, shows that maternal emotions do sometimes differ. Is it only the social position that is different? Relationships take place in a social context, and Berebitsky 2001 looks at ways adoption policies shaped and were, in turn, shaped by cultural norms of motherhood. The processes of inducting an adopted child into a new culture as well as a new family are discussed by Dorow 2006. Questions surrounding lesbian mothers tend to be less about love and more about whether a mother sexually orientated toward women can be a fit mother, and whether two female parents in a sexual relationship can raise a well-adjusted child. Golombok 1985 explored the mental and intellectual well-being of children who were raised by lesbian mothers; the evidence that children are not adversely affected in any way, nor less likely than any other children to have a heterosexual orientation, is convincing and has had significant impact on custody decisions. The increasingly common practice of stepmothering contends with a number of problematic expectations brought into culture via fairy tales and sustained by newer models in evolutionary psychology. Dunn, et al. 2001 moderates the cultural norms of mothers with children’s own experiences.

                                                                                                                                                                        • Berebitsky, Julie. Like Our Very Own: Adoption and the Changing Culture of Motherhood, 1851–1950. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Useful social history of adoption showing that the relatively relaxed policies during this period played a role in definitions of motherhood and family. Also contains accounts of personal experiences of adoptive mothers and their children.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Dorow, Sara F. Transnational Adoption: A Cultural Economy of Race, Gender, and Kinship. New York: New York University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                            An ethnography examining transnational adoption, focusing on China–US adoption. Based on forty interviews with adoptive parents, the author describes how mothers and other people in the child’s world manage different identities they project onto the child.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Dunn, J., L. C. Davies, T. G. O’Connor, and W. Sturgess. “Family Lives and Friendships: The Perspective of Children in Step, Single-Parent, and Nonstep Families.” Journal of Family Psychology 15.2 (2001): 272–287.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1037/0893-3200.15.2.272Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              The questions raised here are about children’s views of families. The embedded experiences of family life and living concepts of family are all too often forgotten. The authors sensitively attend to children’s own flexible concepts of family.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Golombok, S. “Lesbian Mothers and Their Children.” Psychologie 4.3 (1985): 34–37.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Important work showing that children with two female parents—or two mothers—face no special risk of psychological disturbance and have an incidence of homosexuality no higher than that of children raised by a male parent and a female parent. Golombok’s research has been influential in custody case decisions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Phoenix, Ann, Anne Woollett, and Eva Lloyd, eds. Motherhood: Meanings, Practices, and Ideologies. London: SAGE, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  A collection analyzing representations of mothers in psychology, which is seen as a source of mothering norms and ideals that distort or ignore women’s own experiences of mothering.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Waterman, Barbara. The Birth of an Adoptive, Foster or Stepmother: Beyond Biological Mothering Attachments. London: Kingsley, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    A psychologist explores attachment experiences of nonbiological mothers, considering ways in which these are similar to and different from biological attachments.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Mothers’ Rights

                                                                                                                                                                                    The rights of mothers comprise several very different and very broad topics. The first involves the rights of a mother to the custody of her child, and though laws vary from across countries and within countries (across states), Gould and Martindale 2009 explains how child custody decisions are evaluated with reference to common considerations of child’s interests and legal matters. A second topic is how a mother’s rights accrue responsibilities, which the UK-based website Directgov outlines clearly. O’Neill 1988 presents a more complex framework for conceptualizing the special responsibilities a parent has for a child and how these should be considered by institutions involved in child care and custody. O’Neill 2002 expands this to argue that reproduction is not a right, though the author uses the compelling concept of “negative rights,” such as the right not to be forced to reproduce. Grover 2003 brings in the issue that formulating children’s rights must be responsive to children’s experiences, and children’s accounts of their experiences need to be put in the context of developmental research on their ability to report their experiences. Read 2000 offers a strong reminder that mothers’ rights involve responding to the needs of their children and that mothers are a crucial source of understanding these needs, particularly when a child has disabilities to contend with. A mother’s right is also the right not to have a child, and Luker 1985 explores how this right is inextricably mixed with broad political approaches to motherhood. In a different perspective, mothers’ rights involve workplace rights on maternity leave and flexible working. For this constantly changing topic, the Directgov website provides reliable information, such as in the articles Parental Rights and Responsibilities, Parental Leave and Flexible Working, and Pregnancy and Maternity Rights in the Workplace. Though these are relevant to the United Kingdom only, they provide examples of what information governments around the world should provide on the web.

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Parental Rights and Responsibilities. Directgov.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      A clear account of a mother’s legal responsibilities to a child and the conditions fathers must fulfill to gain responsibilities as set down in law for England and Wales. A good pairing of rights with responsibilities.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Pregnancy and Maternity Rights in the Workplace. Directgov.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        A continually updated source for rights in the workplace as well as guidance on taking maternity leave and access to relevant forms.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Gould, Jonathan, and David Martindale. The Art and Science of Child Custody Evaluations. New York and London: Guilford, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          A helpful, detailed account of considerations in child custody decisions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Grover, Sonja. “Social Research in the Advancement of Children’s Rights.” Journal of Academic Ethics 1.1 (2003): 119–130.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1023/A:1025419317512Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            The paper argues for the importance of assessing children’s reported experience in the context of developmental psychology and the need for psychologists to show ways their findings have an impact on children’s rights. A reminder that understanding has moral implications and that these should be articulated.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Luker, Kristin. Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood. California Series on Social Choice and Political Economy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Drawing on public documents and news reports, this work shows that the moral stance on abortion is embedded in views about motherhood, sexual behaviors, and individual rights. Though an update is needed, the polarized arguments and biases on both sides have not changed.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • O’Neill, Onora. “Children’s Rights and Children’s Lives.” Ethics 98.3 (1988): 445–463.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1086/292964Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                A foundational paper that questions the usefulness of focusing on rights for children. A child’s powerlessness is a phase of life from which children normally emerge with the help and encouragement of those who have power over them. Hence, a focus on the obligations and responsibilities of parents is more useful than a rhetoric of children’s rights.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • O’Neill, Onora. Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics: The Gifford Lectures, University of Edinburgh, 2001. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511606250Save Citation »Export Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                  A clear and probing philosophical analysis of why individual choice should not always prevail in decisions about one’s own reproduction. While any person should be protected from being forced to reproduce, an individual’s use of assisted reproduction (or sex-selective abortion) has ramifications on wider populations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Parental Leave and Flexible Working. Directgov.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    Changing and complex legislation is presented and updated.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Read, Janet. Disability, the Family, and Society: Listening to Mothers. Philadelphia: Buckingham, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      When a mother has a nonstandard child, she must mediate between her disabled child and practices and institutions that may not be shaped to meet the child’s needs or interests. Mothers’ experiences of implicit and explicit discrimination against their disabled children are presented here.

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