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Maternal ambivalence in the relationship between a mother and infant in the infant's first year of life

posted on 21.02.2017, 02:45 by Patton, Andrea
This qualitative research study, based on data obtained from a 12 month psychoanalytic infant observation, explores the emergence and manifestations of maternal ambivalence in the relationship between a mother and infant, during the infant's first year of life. The research is presented as a single case study. Whilst literature is considered from the fields of object-relations psychoanalysis and feminist perspectives of psychoanalysis, particular consideration is given to themes raised in Donald Winnicott's seminal work 'Hate in the Countertransference.' Winnicott's paper, specifically his list of reasons 'why a mother hates her baby' is used as a thematic framework for analysing the research findings. The study concludes that for mothers, ambivalence is a typical and ordinary experience in the relationship with the infant, though there can be considerable anxiety and tension associated with this experience which can challenge the mother's capacity to manage her ambivalence. However, the experience of maternal ambivalence may also contribute to a more empathic understanding of the infant, if the mother is able to reflect on her range of experiences in the relationship. Finally, this thesis concludes with recommendations for work in the perinatal and maternal mental health field. All names and identifying personal details used in the findings have been changed to ensure confidentiality.


Principal supervisor

Jacqueline Adler

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Psychological sciences

Campus location



Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences