Conflicted adult-like roles and responsibilities (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Spark,

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Conflicted and enmeshed dynamics in the mother-daughter relationship has often been showcased in narratives in literature and movies.  Inter-generational pain is a topic rarely addressed and/or discussed given the attitude of letting time heal the wounds. Over the years –  with research on parentified children, dysfunctional relationships, role of family in creating the voice of the self, it has become imperative to address the role of mothering and its impact , despite the taboo surrounding it. 

This brings us to questioning what constitutes as mother wound. According to Bethany Webster (2017) “The mother wound is a product of patriarchy. On a personal level, it is the mother’s projection of her unhealed wounds on the daughter. And on the collective level, it’s the dysfunctional coping mechanisms that have resulted from generations of female oppression. Patriarchy distorts dynamics between mothers and daughters that leave both disempowered. The patriarchal thread that runs through all dysfunctional dynamics between mothers and daughters is the demand for obedience in exchange for love”.  On a lens that recognises the microscopic origins and addresses its consequent impact at a macro-level, a daughter with an unresolved mother wound will continue to experience and possibly perpetuate the feelings of rejection, fear of abandonment , lack of boundaries and trust issues. 

As the title states, the unresolved transmission results in a catastrophic pile up of guilt, shaming and parentification . ” In its simplest form, parentification occurs when a child assumes adult-like roles and responsibilities (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Spark, 1973). Typically, parenti?ed children suppress and defer their own needs so that they can meet the needs of another family member (e.g., parent, caregiver, or sibling; Hooper, 2007, 2011).”

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Key aims

This PhD will aim to explore and understand the narratives of women who have experienced the mother wound.  The deliberate intention of this research is to urge women to recognise the importance of resolving this inter-generational pain. Families have an inherent role in contributing to our upbringing via nature or nurture. To recognise the impact of the same is equally important. By carrying out this research,  the researcher aims to contribute to the pool of knowledge regarding mother-daughter relationships , specific to cultures that are enmeshed in patriarchy as well. It is hoped, that through this research original contributions are made to systematically recognise the importance of addressing conflicted relationships irrespective of family structures, how parentification occurs as a consequence and an attempt to understand the process of healing . 

Research questions 

How do you recognise the mother wound?
Exploring the feelings of guilt, shame, anger and estrangement in the process of addressing the mother wound.
Impact of  mother wound on romantic relationship (lack of boundaries, fear of abandonment and trust issues)
Studying the process of separation-individuation : My Mother Vs Me. 

Background 

Maraion Woodman stated that “The young child lives close to the unconscious of the parents, and therefore unconsciously carries the parents’ unfulfilled dreams and ambitions, as well as their problems and unresolved conflicts.” There is an obvious paucity of research studying the implicit impact of  this burden.  Attachment theories by Ainsworth , Mary Main and  Hazen – Shaver explain the reasons for the wound, but little research has been done to profile it. 

In a study published in 1999,  by Rastogi and Wampler  – a cross cultural examination was done to explore  adult daughters relationship using Feminist relations and attachment theories on dimensions of trust, closeness and collectivism. Findings stated that Asian Indian Americans scored higher than European American perhaps reinforcing how patriarchal societies have embedded structures. 

As stated before, there is a societal taboo to discuss the role of mothering which leads to the perception of a close relationship in the dyad . However Connor argued “that the continued popular perception of mother/daughter relationships as very close reflects current definitions of feminity; the idealisation of the mother role and an equation between closeness and tending.” To contest this, the study done by  Smith;Mullis;Wayne-Hill suggests that the kind of conflict and autonomy experienced in this dyadic relationships explain the striving for identity and therefore the resolution.  

Methodological framework 

Awareness-of-experience is a defining trait of conscious experience, the trait that gives experience a first-person, lived character. It is that lived character of experience that allows a first-person perspective on the object of study, namely, experience, and that perspective is characteristic of the methodology of phenomenology.

Universities and students have been exposed to the apparent power structure that defines and delineates mainstream psychology from analytical and critical psychology . However through the works of Smith et al, there have been consistent efforts to showcase how the power balance can be restored and how subjectivity and reflexivity might stand to be an asset than a liability. 

Interpretive Phenomenological Approach (IPA)  is a suitable approach when one is trying to find out how individuals are perceiving the particular situations they are facing, how they are making sense of their personal and social world. IPA is especially useful when one is concerned with complexity, process or novelty.

Although the mother wound as a phenomenon might be experienced widely, there are few studies, exploring this beautifully complex topic. For the same reason, IPA stands to do justice to the voices and narratives ,with the process of meaning making being shared by both the researcher and the participant. 

IPA researchers wish to analyse in detail how participants perceive and make sense of things which are happening to them. It therefore requires a flexible data collection instrument. While it is possible to obtain data suitable for IPA analysis in a number of ways – such as personal accounts, and diaries – probably the best way to collect data for an IPA study and the way most IPA studies have been conducted is through the semi-structured interview. This form of interviewing allows the researcher and participant to engage in a dialogue whereby initial questions are modified in the light of the participants’ responses and the investigator is able to probe interesting and important areas which arise.

Sample
Purposeful sampling is a technique widely used in qualitative research for the identification and selection of information-rich cases for the most effective use of limited resources. This involves identifying and selecting individuals or groups of individuals that are especially knowledgeable about or experienced with a phenomenon of interest. In addition to knowledge and experience, it is to be noted –  the importance of availability and willingness to participate, and the ability to communicate experiences and opinions in an articulate, expressive, and reflective manner.

Bearing in mind the novel yet complex nature of the topic, the method by which the sample will be accessed would be using university boards, university groups and social media. The sample willing to participate would be interviewed in focus group using semi structured schedules , which will allow narratives to flow. Further follow ups , will be carried out based on selection of participants who best fit the description of those experiencing the phenomenon. 

IPA studies are conducted on small sample sizes. The detailed case-by-case analysis of individual transcripts takes a long time, and the aim of the study is to say something in detail about the perceptions and understandings of this particular group rather than prematurely make more general claims. This is not to say that IPA is opposed to more general claims for larger populations; it is just that it is committed to the painstaking analysis of cases rather than jumping to generalisations. This is described as an idiographic mode of inquiry as opposed to the nomothetic approach which predominates in psychology.

A sample size of 10 women, with no control variables of race or caste would be selected. It is hoped that there will be a generous variability of age to give a more holistic understanding of the experience. It is hoped that a multi-cultural sample is selected , for a more enriched understanding and interpretation. 

REFERENCES

Journals 

Byng-Hall, J. (2002), Relieving Parentified Children’s Burdens in Families with Insecure Attachment Patterns. Family Process, 41: 375–388. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2002.41307.x

O’Connor, P. (1990), The adult mother/daughter relationship:a uniquely and universally dose relationship?. The Sociological Review, 38: 293–322. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.1990.tb00913.x

Rastogi, M., & Wampler, K. (1999). Adult Daughters’ Perceptions of the Mother-Daughter Relationship: A Cross-Cultural Comparison. Family Relations, 48(3), 327-336. doi:10.2307/585643

Smith, L. M., Mullis, R. L., & Hill, E. W. (1995). Identity Strivings within the Mother-Daughter Relationship. Psychological Reports, 76(2), 495-503. doi:10.2466/pr0.1995.76.2.495

Smith, J.A. (1996) ‘Beyond the divide between cognition and discourse: using interpretative phenomenological analysis in health psychology’, Psychology and Health, 11: 261–71.

Smith, J.A., Flowers, P. and Osborn, M. (1997) ‘Interpretative phenomenological analysis and health psychology’, in L. Yardley (ed.), Material Discourses and
Health. London: Routledge, pp. 68–91.

Websites

Golick, J. (2017, July 18). Working with Families and the Parentified Child. Retrieved December 31, 2017, from https://muirwoodteen.com/2016/08/22/working-families-parentified-child/

Smith, D. W. (2003, November 16). Phenomenology. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/phenomenology/

Webster, B. (n.d.). The Most Insidious Forms of Patriarchy Pass Through the Mother. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from https://womboflight.com/the-most-insidious-forms-of-patriarchy-pass-through-the-mother

Books (As extracted from –  Palinkas, L. A., Horwitz, S. M., Green, C. A., Wisdom, J. P., Duan, N., & Hoagwood, K. (2015). Purposeful sampling for qualitative data collection and analysis in mixed method implementation research. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 42(5), 533–544. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-013-0528-y)

Bernard HR. Research methods in anthropology: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. 3rd Alta Mira Press; Walnut Creek, CA: 2002. 

Cresswell JW, Plano Clark VL. Designing and conducting mixed method research. 2nd Sage; Thousand Oaks, CA: 2011

 Patton MQ. Qualitative research and evaluation methods. 3rd Sage Publications; Thousand Oaks, CA: 2002.

 Spradley JP. The ethnographic interview. Holt, Rinehart & Winston; New York: 1979.

Quotations
Woodman ,A. (n.d). In The Most Insidious Forms of Patriarchy Pass Through the Mother. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from https://womboflight.com/the-most-insidious-forms-of-patriarchy-pass-through-the-mother

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