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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Maternal adaptation to parenthood in the second year Painter, Susan Lee


The long tradition of research on the parent-child relationship has focused mainly upon the child's development. Even in studies of parental attitudes and childrearing practices, and in research on the mother-infant attachment relationship, the ultimate goal has been explanation of child behavior and development. Much of the research on the parent-child relationship has concentrated on the infancy period and has involved detailed descriptions of parent-child interactive behavior. In contrast, this study of maternal adaptation to parenthood focuses on the mother's experiences and behavior in the toddler period. Three issues were addressed: First, a description of the dimensions of maternal adaptation in the toddler period was sought. Second, the role of maternal confidence and self-esteem, previously shown to be important in maternal adaptation in the infancy period, was explored for maternal adaptation in the toddler period. Third, the mother's own perceptions of her relationships and experiences were compared with behavioral observations made in the laboratory. Sixty mothers of toddlers provided self-report data on their relationships with their child and husband, their emotional state, their activities outside the home, their concerns about conflicts experienced between their parental and other roles, and current childcare arrangements. Mother-toddler interaction was observed in a structured laboratory situation designed to assess the mother's ability to assist her child with a number of tasks. Factor analyses of the self-report data revealed eleven factors comprising five dimensions of maternal adaptation: mother's perception of the maternal role; the marital relationship and experiences of conflicting role demands; the mother's percpetion of support received from her husband and enjoyment shared with her toddler; management of the instrumental or child-care aspects of the parental role; and the mother's overall outlook on life, including her confidence and self-esteem both within and outisde the parental role. Laboratory-based observations of maternal behavior were found to be unrelated to self-report data. It was concluded that the problems posed by parenthood for mothers of toddlers are not limited to the needs or behavior of the child, or to the mother-child relationship itself, but encompass the need to integrate the wide range of roles and experiences that make up the mother's life.

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