Mirroring and compassion in early motherhood

DClinPsych Thesis

Allen, J. 2021. Mirroring and compassion in early motherhood. DClinPsych Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Salmons Institute of Applied Psychology
AuthorsAllen, J.
TypeDClinPsych Thesis
Qualification nameDoctorate of Clinical Psychology

Section A provides a summary of key theories of mirroring and evaluates them against a review of current empirical studies. The main associations with mirroring, different definitions and methodologies were summarised. Existing constructs and coding strategies were critiqued for western-centric assumptions. Parts of the key theories were supported but some elements were not covered by the existing literature, including mechanisms of the development of the self in healthy and problematic environments. As the relationship with self may be influenced by compassionate relating, suggestions for further exploration included compassion in early life.

Given the methodological challenges of understanding an infant’s inner world, Section B instead focused on the mother’s experience of compassion with her baby and others. Compassion has associations with wellbeing and resilience and theories suggest it evolved within the mother-baby relationship, later generalising to other close kin and wider social connections. Therefore, this study also explored mothers’ experiences of compassion in a wider societal context. Participants valued compassion highly but felt that society could be judgemental and contradictory in its standards for mothers. Implications include a need for societal systems to be evaluated with a compassionate lens, and a collective effort to facilitate more compassion for mothers

KeywordsMotherhood; Mirroring; Compassion; Western-centric assumptions
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Deposited27 Sep 2021
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