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Mothering, Guilt and Shame

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Abstract

Even as research continues to explore mothering experiences and social psychologists consider the costs of guilt and shame, few empirical works have examined the relationships among mothering, guilt and shame. The idea that guilt and shame are necessary components of mothering is widespread. A few sources take seriously the emotions of guilt and shame nor has considerable thought been given to the social nature of guilt and shame. Rather than accept a purely psychological explanation of guilt and shame, I investigate the institutional and interactional dynamics that fuel women’s drives to perform as ‘the good mother’. In particular, I explore the ‘good mothering’ ideology that places mothers at risk of guilt and shame and then two social and institutional spaces where guilt and shame are likely to be prevalent.

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