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Lerner, L. (1982). Chodorow's Reproduction of Mothering: An Appraisal. Psychoanal. Rev., 69(1):151.

(1982). Psychoanalytic Review, 69(1):151


Chodorow's Reproduction of Mothering: An Appraisal

Review by:
Leila Lerner

The Reproduction of Mothering by Nancy Chodorow. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1978.

Nancy Chodorow, whose book, The Reproduction of Mothering, is the subject of this Symposium represents a new generation of social scientists schooled in the thought and methods of psychoanalysis. Despite the reciprocity that has always marked the relationship between social science and psychoanalysis since the inception of these disciplines in the nineteenth century, it is only in the last generation that a sophisticated psycho-social perspective has developed. Chodorow's study evolves from this thinking. Utilizing psychoanalytic findings about male and female development, she studies the social organization of family life that has delegated exclusive responsibility for parenting to women.

The perpetuation of mothering from mother to daughter has made women more sensitive than men to emotional and personal life experiences but has rendered them vulnerable to symbiotic pulls towards their mothers with adverse consequences for their heterosexual adjustment. While women have been trained for primary relationships, men have been conditioned to repress their affectional relational needs and to use their masculinity for power and dominance.

This is the central thesis of Chodorow's book which the author explores from the viewpoint of a feminist sociologist. Our three discussants examine her analysis and the implications of her recommendations for men and women to share more equally in parenting. The issues they raise will be with us for a long time as men and women, under the pressures of the vast social changes of our time, struggle toward new identities and a new accommodation to each other.

Carol Nadelson is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who has lectured and published extensively on mental health problems of women. Jessica Benjamin is a social scientist and candidate in psychoanalysis, and the author of papers on the relationship of social theory to psychoanalytic thought; and Mary Brown Parlee is a psychologist whose research has centered on the psychology of menstruation, birth, and menopause.

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