The Neurobiology of Motherhood

Maternal Subjectivities and Embodied Experiences

By Linda Burnett

© 2016 – Routledge

256 pages

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pub: 2016-02-29
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About the Book

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.

Table of Contents

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

About the Author

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).

About the Series

Women and Psychology

This series brings together current theory and research on women and psychology. Drawing on scholarship from a number of different areas of psychology, it bridges the gap between abstract research and the reality of women's lives by integrating theory and practice, research and policy.

Each book addresses a 'cutting edge' issue of research, covering topics such as postnatal depression and eating disorders, and addressing a wide range of theories and methodologies.

The series provides accessible and concise accounts of key issues in the study of women and psychology, and clearly demonstrates the centrality of psychology debates within women's studies or feminism.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSY031000
PSYCHOLOGY / Social Psychology
PSY036000
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health
SOC010000
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Feminism & Feminist Theory
SOC032000
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies