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Kathleen M. Pape is a 2014 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University Seattle.

  • Philip Cushman, PhD - Committee Chair
  • Melissa J. Kennedy, PhD - Committee Member
  • Leslie Butterfield, PhD, - Committee Member

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

Mothering is a rich and complex experience involving challenging tasks, a developing relationship with one's child, and socially defined roles. How mothering is viewed varies depending on the cultural norms and historical era under consideration. This study is a textual interpretation of three books written about perinatal mental health, especially how those texts describe the challenges and struggles of birthing and mothering. I develop understandings about how clinicians respond to those issues and in the process understand themselves, their practices, and their sociocultural roles. I consider the shape of the current social terrain that brings to light the experiences of birthing women and the clinicians who treat them. Drawing on philosophical hermeneutics I interpret three books concerned with perinatal mental health (Stone & Menken, 2008; Bennett & Indman, 2010; Shields, 2005). Considering the themes that emerged, I describe how the beliefs of this era regarding birthing and mothering and corresponding therapeutic practices are reflected in these texts. Five main themes are identified. First, is that maternal suffering is overlooked and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are undertreated. Second, suffering is reduced to a medicalized disorder located within the mother and her biochemistry. This created disorder in the mother and prevented her from enacting her role as mother and necessitated an individualist response. Third, the mother is viewed as an object whose wellbeing is important primarily because it serves others in her family. Fourth, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are seen as being universal. Finally, the clinician is viewed as a professional expert tasked with bringing order to the mother's biochemical disorder. I discuss how particular ways of being for clinicians and mothers are highlighted within these texts, and the implications of such for therapeutic practices. The beliefs expressed in these texts reflect and reinforce a predominant way of being in contemporary culture, which I describe as the functional self--a self that is valued for actively and efficiently performing social roles that reinforce current arrangements of gender and the political status quo. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center, www.ohiolink.edu/etd

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