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Novick, K.K. (1988). Childbearing and Child Rearing. Psychoanal. Inq., 8:252-260.

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(1988). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 8(2):252-260

Childbearing and Child Rearing

Kerry Kelly Novick

Childbearing, which includes pregnancy, birth, and the early nursing period, and child rearing — that is, the bringing up and taking care of children — are often differently perceived in our society, and by women themselves. Pregnant and nursing mothers experience enhanced narcissism, describe themselves as precious, and occupy an almost mystical position in the cultural perception of our society, now and in the past, vide the power of the image of the Madonna and Child. But has anyone ever seen a picture of Mary toilet-training Jesus? Something seems to change in our perception and valuation of the mother-child relationship by the end of the first year; many women doubt the worth of child rearing, and our society seems unsure of the social role and importance of bringing up children. Why should this be so? I would like to explore some of the childhood roots of these attitudes in women and suggest that childbearing and child rearing constitute separate strands in feminine development, strands that may come together only at the close of adolescence.

The time around 18 months seems crucial in many areas of a little girl's development. Firstly, she is consolidating a self-other distinction which is rooted in her relationship with her primary object, usually the mother. Anal-zone sensations contribute to body-boundary definition, and changes in the character and


Kerry Kelly Novick is member of the Faculty, Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute.

1 The highly respectable second edition of Websters Dictionary makes one word of childbearing but two words of child rearing, an expression, perhaps, of the distinction explored in this paper.

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