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Psychoanalysis and Motherhood

  • By: Sigal Spigel
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Psychoanalysis is a therapeutic modality and a critical theory, both emphasizing the relation between conscious and unconscious processes in psychic life. Associated with femininity—the “dark continent” of classical psychoanalytic thought—the maternal initially had only a marginal place. In recent decades, however, motherhood has become a subject of considerable psychoanalytic interest. The mother appears in psychoanalytic theory through debates on child development, sexual difference, female identity, and psychic structures. Various writing on the maternal has sought to acknowledge the distinctiveness of maternal experiences. Whether motivated by clinical observation or feminist aspiration, theorists have challenged the exclusion of the maternal and offered new models of subjectivities and culture within which the mother plays a central role. Despite this, many accounts of human development still consider only the ...

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