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Nash, J. (1997). Torn in Two: The Experience of Maternal Ambivalence, Rozsika Parker. London: Virago, 1995. 299 pages.. Free Associations, 7(1):143-148.

(1997). Free Associations, 7(1):143-148

Torn in Two: The Experience of Maternal Ambivalence, Rozsika Parker. London: Virago, 1995. 299 pages.

Review by:
Jo Nash

Torn In Two is an important contribution to psychoanalytic perspectives on mothering, which dismantles some of our culture's most cherished mythologies concerning maternal experience and its relationship to child development. Rozsika Parker contrasts mothers' often surprised and surprising accounts of their child's responses to contained expressions of maternal ambivalence, with mothers' accounts of how their attempts at a repudiation of their hateful feelings towards their children often end up imprisoning them in depression, and children in idealising/denigrating phantasy relationships to mothers.

The author's accounts of a wide range of maternal experiences are drawn from her extensive clinical experience as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist working with clients who are mothers, her own experience as a mother, various feminist and/or psychoanalytic textual accounts of mothering, and an undisclosed number of conversations with other mothers who agreed to be interviewed for the study.

Parker is arguing for a shift in focus away from the dominant concerns of traditional psychoanalytic accounts of mothering, which have tended to view the mother solely in terms of her role as the primary nurturing environment for her child. In contrast, she concentrates on the psychological processes involved in maternal development, via a recognition of the cultural pressures exerted on mothers to live up to persecutory maternal ideals. She explores how a mother's responses to these pressures may affect her relationship with her developing child, especially when a mother encounters her own mixed feelings towards her child's need to negotiate issues of separation, fear of engulfment by, loss of, and difference from, her. Parker uses an eclectic mixture of psychoanalytic perspectives plus various feminist and non-feminist perspectives on mothering to reflect upon these women's different experiences of maternal ambivalence.

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