Healthy Maternal Ambivalence

Abstract

This paper critically reviews the psychoanalytic omission in theorizing maternal subjectivity and the subsequent idealisation of the early mother-baby bond that excludes negative maternal feelings. It suggests that painful maternal experiences of resentment, persecution and hatred remain under-explored. Perhaps, even more alarming, this exclusion compels mothers to hide conflictual and shameful feelings from professionals – and from themselves. The paper suggests that healthy maternal ambivalence is an inevitable feature of mothering. Drawing on psychoanalytic theoretical accounts and on empirical study it offers a model of different manifestations of maternal ambivalence. Facilitator, Regulator, Reciprocator and Conflicted maternal orientations manifest antenatally, preceding knowledge of the child’s actual characteristics. The various permutations of ambivalence in parenting are a function of the mother's inner world and the child's affective communications.

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Raphael-Leff, J., (2010) “Healthy Maternal Ambivalence”, Studies in the Maternal 2(1), p.1-15. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/sim.97

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Joan Raphael-Leff

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