The Neurobiology of Motherhood
Maternal Subjectivities and Embodied Experiences
Routledge – 2016 – 256 pages
Series: Women and Psychology
In motherhood, many women experience feelings of great intensity, a strong and passionate bond with their child, and a sense of personal transformation. For these women the experiences of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and embodied care are felt as central to the construction of their sense of self as a mother. By and large, however, feminist theory and scholarship has placed more emphasis on the social and discursive structuring of maternal experiences, and given limited attention to the effects of these embodied experiences on subjectivity. Within this literature, the material maternal body has a minimal presence.
In Thinking Through Motherhood, Linda Burnettrevisits the significance of women’s embodied experiences of motherhood and suggests that the understanding of maternal subjectivities is enhanced by these biological perspectives, whose salience has too often been underplayed or dismissed. In investigating how maternal subjectivities are constructed in the embodied mother-child relationship, and its myriad of invisible connections and countless tiny encounters every day, Burnett’s approach sees the biological, psychological, social and relational as mutually constitutive. Her interdisciplinary study draws on the neurosciences, infant research, and psychoanalysis, as well as women’s subjective accounts, provided in unstructured interviews. This allows a complex picture of maternal subjectivities to emerge, one congruent with the intense and powerful emotions and experiences described by many women. The inclusion of biological perspectives illuminates questions usually disregarded and has the potential to reframe feminist and other critical analyses of maternal subjectivities.
Thinking Through Motherhood will be important reading for students and researchers working in motherhood, women and gender studies, psychology, psychoanalysis, feminist studies, and sociology. It will also be extremely useful for professional psychotherapists, counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists, particularly those working with mothers and families.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: An absence: the maternal biological body in feminist writings
Chapter 3: From neurons to subjectivities
Chapter 4: Maternal experiences: neurobiological perspectives
Chapter 5: Mother and infant: Co-creating a relationship and each other
Chapter 6: Maternal love and care and maternal subjectivities
Chapter 7: Re-reading and re-framing
Chapter 8: Maternal transformation
Chapter 9: The uniqueness of maternal attachment
Chapter 10: Being there
Chapter 11: Conclusion
Linda Burnett is based at The Learning Centre in the University of New South Wales, Australia, where she teaches writing to postgraduate research students. Her previous works include the co-authored Studying for Social Work (Sage, 2011).