chapter  9
The Special Role of Parenting in the Context of Poverty: The Case of Adolescent Motherhood
ByJudith S. Musick
Pages 38

The psychoanalyst Therese Benedek once remarked that the capacity for motherliness is dependent on the mother's having enough psychological distance from her child to enable her to move in the direction of making the right choice for his sake (Benedek, 1970). Many parents, including very poor ones, are able to do this; generally however, they are adult parents. Can an adolescent have that psychological distance, especially one who was drawn to early childbearing as compensation for what she was deprived of herself as a child? Is such a girl developmentally or psychologically capable of making the right choice for her child consistently enough to count? Perhaps time and her own desire to change may markedly improve her parenting and life circumstances (Herr & Halpern, 1991), providing positive parenting "discontinuities" (Rutter, 1989) that improve her child's chances as well (see for example, Brooks-Gunn & Chase-Landsdale, 1991; Brooks-Gunn & Furstenberg, 1987). Yet, if completing school, working, moving to a better neighborhood, sending her child to a better school, and creating a more stable and ordered life, afford her child a second chance, her difficulties with parenting per se were likely to be less serious to begin with.