The Psychology of Everyday Life:Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage


How does the relationship with the parent’s own parent impact the psychological challenge of pregnancy?

In pregnancy, the parent comes face-to-face with the experience of nurturing a helpless, dependent infant. Consequently, old feelings and memories of being parented will inevitably be stimulated. This may happen on a conscious level, in which expectant parents actively reflect on their own childhood relationship with their parents. It may also happen on an unconscious level, with the impact of childhood experiences only visible through fantasies, attitudes, and expectations about the new baby. If the childhood relationship was largely positive, expectant parents can gain a new appreciation for the level of work and devotion provided by their own parents. They become more understanding of what their parents went through.

If the relationship was problematic, these difficulties may interfere with the preparation for parenthood. The expectant parents may have heightened insecurities about their ability to function as a parent, exaggerated fears of the baby’s demands, or of their ability to meet the emotional needs of their baby. Alternatively, there may be a constricted ability to imagine and anticipate the future relationship with the baby at all. Regardless of the quality of the original parent-child relationship, pregnancy is a time for expectant parents to reflect on their own experience of being parented, and consider what they would and would not like to repeat with their own children.

Families tend to become closer when new babies arrive (iStock).

This is a web preview of the "The Handy Psychology Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App