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Shectman, K.W. (1980). Motherhood as an Adult Developmental Stage. Am. J. Psychoanal., 40(3):273-281.

(1980). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 40(3):273-281

Other Voices

Motherhood as an Adult Developmental Stage

Karen Woolf Shectman, M.A.

In the past two decades both academic1,2,3,4 and popular5,6,7 presses have published a number of books and articles dealing with adult development and the life cycle. Adult development refers to the biological, social, and psychological changes that occur as individuals move from adolescence into young, middle, and mature adulthood.

One aspect of adult development that has been neglected in these discussions is the growth that accompanies becoming a parent. This paper examines the experience of becoming a mother and the dimensions of those changes which occur in a woman during the first year of her first child's life.

In order to better understand what happens to women who become mothers the following two questions are raised: (1) How does motherhood change a woman's relationship to the external world? and (2) In what ways does motherhood change the psychological make-up of a woman? The impact on a woman of becoming a mother has at least four dimensions: (1) Social: the mother's relationship with her own mother and husband change in ways that are not anticipated; (2) Biological: the intense symbiotic relationship between the mother and infant child has aspects of enormous pleasure and terrible anxiety associated with it and must be accepted as such; (3) Emotional: motherhood forces a woman into contact with nonrational, intuitive aspects of herself; and (4) Cognitive: the mother's understanding of her own past and the ways in which the passage of time is marked and sensed are different after one has a child.

The New Mother, Her Husband, and Her Own Mother

Generally in American society, work roles are undertaken deliberately, over a period of time, as the individual moves through an apprenticeship to a gradual assumption of increasing responsibility on the job.

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