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Gedo, J.E. (1965). Unmarried Motherhood: A Paradigmatic Single Case Study. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:352-357.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:352-357

Unmarried Motherhood: A Paradigmatic Single Case Study

John E. Gedo

The analysis of a woman who had borne two illegitimate children and had them placed for adoption brought to my attention the problem of unmarried motherhood. In reviewing the psycho-analytic and related publications on this topic, I encountered the following statement by R. Fliess (1954).

… As for the future, I need not mention the promise held by a thorough analysis of even a single unmarried mother … the analyst might eventually obtain a clue as to why (these women) are compelled to choose of all the possible elaborations upon a fantasy: (that of) 'acting out'.

Surprised by the implication that no account of the analysis of the mother of an illegitimate child had been published prior to 1954, I made a thorough search of the literature and discovered only one reference to such a treatment. Reider (1949), in a report focused on the metapsychology of shame, described a patient who became illegitimately pregnant after being accepted for analysis but before actually starting the therapy. Reider's account concentrates on this woman's need to conceal her pregnancy even from her analyst and does not discuss the roots of the illegitimate pregnancy itself.

One can but speculate that the paucity of analytic reports on this problem is a result of the relative infrequency with which unmarried mothers seek psycho-analysis. It should be recalled that only a minor proportion of illegitimate pregnancies are carried to term (estimated at about five per cent. in the U.S.A.), and among those which end with the birth of a live baby, a large number occur in those socio-economic groups which tolerate illegitimacy.

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