chapter  24
First six weeks: differing patterns of maternal and paternal adjustment
ByJoan Raphael-Leff
Pages 21

This chapter describes the various permutations of mothers and their cohabiting partners. Postnatal distress occurs when women cannot fulfil their own specific expectations of motherhood. Postnatal distress has been attributed to a variety of combined physical, hormonal, social, economic and cultural precipitants, such as lack of employment, poor marital harmony, instrumental births, poor housing conditions, maternal idealization. The chapter suggests that universal or isolated causes of puerperal distress cannot be specified but they must be linked to each mother's own orientation towards motherhood and vulnerability factors. Psychoanalytical theories focused on the oedipal role of the father, and overlooked his importance in early infancy and childhood. Some of the differences between maternal soothing and paternal rousing of infants are found to vanish when the father is the primary rather than secondary caretaker. With the birth of a baby new issues of responsibility and care emerge, which necessitate the reconceptualization of family roles and renegotiation of the couple's previous mode of coping.