Repository logo

Maternal hell : the other side of a mother's love : an exploratory study of maternal ambivalence.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Parker (1996 ) suggests that all mothers experience maternal ambivalence , that is the feelings of love and hate directed simultaneously at one's own child . Furthermore Parker (1996 ) contends that this is a normal, healthy part of the development of the mother-child relationship . However due to social expectations around mothering the experience o f ambivalent feelings towards one's own child is considered abnormal and even pathological. As such any normal experiences of maternal ambivalence are experienced as deeply conflictual and distressing by the mothers. Price (1988 ) and Parker (1996 ) suggest that as a result of these deeply distressing experiences , mothers feel intense guilt and desperation which , if these become unmanageable , can lead to deep feelings of depression in the mother and even possibly child abuse. This study made use of directed focus groups and sought to explore the difficulties and tensions created by maternal ambivalence and to unpack the way in which mothers understood these experiences . The voice relational method of analysis was used to deepen the understanding of the participants stories. It became clear that maternal ambivalence was evident across these participant's narratives and was mediated by social expectations , as Parker (1996 ) proposed . The majority of these participants found these experiences incredibly distressing and deeply conflictual . They expressed the feeling of being alone in these experiences and interpreted these experiences as abnormal and sometimes even pathological . However , through the process of the focus groups the process of maternal ambivalence began to be normalised and reconstructed in a more enabling and supportive way.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2006.


Love, Maternal., Mother and child., Theses--Psychology.