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Bibring, G.L. Dwyer, T.F. Huntington, D.S. Valenstein, A.F. (1961). A Study of the Psychological Processes in Pregnancy and of the Earliest Mother-Child Relationship—II. Methodological Considerations. Psychoanal. St. Child, 16:25-72.

(1961). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 16:25-72

A Study of the Psychological Processes in Pregnancy and of the Earliest Mother-Child Relationship—II. Methodological Considerations

Grete L. Bibring, M.D., Thomas F. Dwyer, M.D., Dorothy S. Huntington, Ph.D. and Arthur F. Valenstein, M.D.


The methods developed and used for a clinical study of the psychological processes in fifteen primigravidae are described and discussed. The subjects were studied from the time of their first prenatal clinic visit, when they were pregnant for twelve weeks or less, to at least one year postpartum. Data were collected from the women and their husbands, and later on the infants, by means of interviews, tests, and observations, by psychiatrists, psychologists, a social worker, a medical gynecologist, and a pediatrician. The recorded data were distributed, read, and assessed in conference by the latter personnel and an additional three psychiatrists who had no direct contact with the subjects. The theoretical framework was psychoanalytic, and all members of the research group had an understanding of psychoanalytic concepts and varying degrees of personal experience with psychoanalysis.

The tools used for the collection of data are described, including some specially devised for this study. The purposeful overlapping of areas of observation by the various interviewers during a given period of time is discussed with reference to a concept of triangulation.

The application of a detailed and systematic outline of variables developed for this study, and the usefulness of this type of outline for a variety of psychological studies is considered.

The gathering of data was concentrated on five time periods: each of the trimesters of pregnancy, the delivery and lying-in period, and the interval thereafter up to at least one year postpartum. During each of these periods, interviews and tests were repeated by the same person. In the fourth and fifth periods, other methods and

observers were added: a woman psychiatrist made daily observations of the mother feeding her infant during the lying-in period, the pediatrician did all monthly well-baby examinations, and the psychologist observed and tested the infant.

The assessment of data in conferences was also done separately for each of the five time periods on each subject. The particular usefulness of this procedure and the methods of analyzing and coding the data are discussed.

More broadly, consideration is given to the development of methodologies for dealing with psychological data whose magnitude is substantially less than in the case of an individual psychoanalysis, but substantially more than in the case of broad survey studies. Each of these three methodologic approaches has its own unique potentiality; there is need for further development of methodology appropriate to longitudinal developmental research, as described in this study.

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