Development of A Mother : A Feminist-Relational Perspective

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)



First Advisor

Glee Wahlquist, Ph.D., RN


This case study was twofold. The predominant aspect was to use the developmental framework outlined in Women's Ways of Knowing (Belenky et al 1986) for the study of the childbearing/childrearing woman. The other aspect was to explore mutuality and growth within the researcher/participant relationship, based on the theory of "self-in-relation" described by Jordan and colleagues (1991). A client receiving case management services at a human service agency, was chosen via judgmental sampling to participate, Data collected contains both qualitative and quantitative components. The development of the participant, as well as pertinent aspects of the researcher/participant relationship are traced throughout the childbearing continuum. This study upheld Belenky's view, that development categories are not fixed or exhaustive, and that shifts occur from one "way of knowing" to another at various points. This study described how factors related to the childbearing/childrearing event, and participation in therapeutic relations may influence such shifts. There was also evidence that an increase in reflective thought (Gilligan, 1982) was related the progression of development. Suggestions are given for clarification of the quantitative aspect of the data. The results provide evidence that the therapeutic relationship established was mutually productive and growth enhancing for both participant and researcher, a concept consistent with feminist theory. Assertions are made regarding the use of "unconditional positive regard" (Boswell&Dodd, 1993) as an appropriate approach within a therapeutic relationship. Suggestions are given for the use of nursing theories, specifically Roy's adaptation model, and Watson's philosophy and theory of human caring as framework for reconceptualizing postpartum nursing care as a long them adaptive process, to be facilitated by nursing professionals within various ambulatory and community settings.


Mater's Thesis submitted to the Faculty Sacred Heart University Nursing Program in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the Degree Master of Science in Nursing.