Development of the Representations of the Mother-Child Attachment Relationship in Western Literature (completed)

Camilla ChamsFrancisco Pons  and Karine P. Viana draw on developmental psychology and cognitive literary studies and investigate the mother-child attachment relationship in novels by Hanne Ørstavik and Elena Ferrante.

The nature, origins and social/emotional consequences of the mother-child attachment relationship have been extensively investigated in developmental psychology. However, little is known, beyond the transgenerational transmission, about the history of this relationship. Considering that the study of literature has an important role to play in nuancing dialogues around motherhood, we integrated developmental psychology and cognitive literary studies to examine the representations of the mother-child attachment relationship in contemporary adult’s literature from two Western European linguistic / cultural groups: Germanic (Norwegian) and Latin (Italian). First qualitative analysis was carried on how the representation of the mother-child attachment was portrayed in “The Blue Room”, by Hanne Ørstavik (Norwegian Literature) and “The Lost Daughter”, by Elena Ferrante (Italian Literature). Both books to some extent plot the tension between dependence and abandon, as well as psychological closeness and distance. Based on content analysis approach, and guided by the aims of the study, two main themes were defined: (i) attachment behaviors; (ii) exploration of the world-autonomy. Therefore, we could identify pieces of the text related to these two main axes in order to compare the two narratives. The main results suggest that in both books attachment is portrayed as a system where the main characters move dynamically from behavior towards the known (mother-daughter) and behaviors towards the unknown (new environment, romantic relationship). We discuss literature as a tool to bring new parenting and motherhood representations within a culture as in both books the attachment behaviors presented by the characters confront the cultural norms in their respective culture of origins. Future studies could include other languages, cultures, literatures, and time periods, as well as, additional analyses such as the relation between scientific and social discourses about the mother-child relationship.

Tags: Mother-Child, Attachment Theory, Hanne Ørstavik, Elena Ferrante, Attachment Behavior, World-Autonomy
Published Oct. 23, 2020 11:43 AM - Last modified Dec. 14, 2020 12:24 PM