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Guilt

  • By: Jean-Anne Sutherland
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Because research has demonstrated that guilt, especially if persistent, can result in a sense of ineffectiveness that impacts physical well-being, mental health, and the ability to be productive, it is important to explore guilt within the mothering role. Despite the scarcity of systematic research on mothering and guilt, the notion of “maternal guilt” in the media and in the everyday lives of women is inescapable.

In popular magazines, as well as academic work across disciplines, guilt appears as a natural and common component of motherhood. As Adrienne Rich said of mothers: “the guilt, the powerless responsibility for human lives, the judgments and condemnations, the fear of her own power, the guilt, the guilt, the guilt.”

Contributing Factors to Maternal Guilt

In 1978, Heffner noted that, among other ...

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