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Hoffman, L. (2004). When Daughter Becomes Mother: Inferences from Multiple Dyadic Parent—Child Groups. Psychoanal. Inq., 24(5):629-656.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 24(5):629-656

When Daughter Becomes Mother: Inferences from Multiple Dyadic Parent—Child Groups

Leon Hoffman, M.D.

In this paper, I describe how new mothers can be preoccupied with their mothers and can replay their relationship with them transferentially with professionals and nannies, who become surrogates for their mothers. New mothers need affirmation from their mothers and from mother surrogates because, in their new role, they experience a sense of helplessness and anxiety and have difficulty tolerating aggression, ambivalence, and conflict. Stern's “motherhood constellation” and “good grandmother transference” are useful constructs for understanding how to best approach and help new mothers and their babies. From observations in multiple dyadic parent-child groups at the Pacella Parent Child Center, I have distilled two factors that help new mothers address their anxieties—the bonds these mothers make with one another and their transferential bond with the group leader and other professionals at the center. I critically discuss and compare theoretical inferences derived from individual psychoanalytic or psychotherapeutic work (as exemplified by Balsam's work) with the inferences derived from Stern's dyadic model and with inferences derived from psychoanalytically informed group situations. I consider the implications of the ubiquity of ambivalence conflicts, especially around aggression.

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