1. Please follow instructions of the paper in attachment carefully.2. I will provide screenshots of the readings that will be used for quotes later (six total).3. I have written the first two parts (introduction and procedure) already, which I will attach in attachment named “The paternal identity”, please continue writing the paper to 8 pages.4. My idea of the paper: paternal identity is formed under family atmosphere through interactions with the child and influence/expectations of the other half on how to be a good dad (Instead of realizing the new identity once a child is born).5. I will attach a reference paper named “The Maternal Identity” writing about maternal identity for reference (but do not quote or cite the paper, I just want to give you an idea of what the paper would like, and you can see examples of how a mom interacts with a child and changes her behavior after gaining maternal identity, which will be similar in my case).6. You can see how the other half has shaped and influenced formation of paternal identity by looking at this paper, which is one of my idea mentioned above: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227518797_Paternal_Identity_Maternal_Gatekeeping_and_Father_Involvement (Also, do not cite or quote the paper in the link, you can paraphrase some points but just be careful. The paper will be submit through turnitin).7. For the data part, you can make up your own quotes of the interviewees and also the field study experience I mentioned in the second paragraph (You can see the reference paper “The Maternal Identity” in attachment of how the data/interviews would look like to support my idea). Try to imagine what kind of scenario would be if you stay 2 days at your cousin’s house and observe how your cousin and his children interact (For example: the dad will pickup his child and ask for feed at school while driving, or ask the mom how’s the study been of his child without asking the child directly etc.)8. Most importantly, the paper is about how the paternal identity is formed instead of what’s a relationship between a dad and his child. The x–>y is very important!



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Contexts of Identity
Contexts of Identity:
The Maternal Identity
Sociology 150
Dr. Brian Powers | Read: Mike Shultz
December 4, 2009
Maternal Identity
When a woman discovers she has the opportunity to become a mother for the first time,
biologically or otherwise, a critical decision must be made. This decision will change her life
forever and allow her to take on a new identity. In forming this new identity, she will refer to
meanings and ideologies associated with being a mother that she has gained throughout her life.
In some cases, she will seek out a better understanding of this new identity via education, reading
books and learning about other mother’s experiences. Essentially the creation of the maternal
identity can only begin when the woman is first united with her child and takes the responsibility
to provide for the child. In this context of having a living and needful human being that depends
on her to survive, the maternal identity can begin to develop. Once this identity takes form
mothers encounter several transitions due to social influence and her maternal identity will
become reinforced by routine behavior. Although it has been argued by many experts that the
maternal identity is a natural and instinctual phenomenon, I have encountered evidence that
provides otherwise. Through my research I will provide factual evidence that women acquire
their maternal identity through interactions with their child, as well as through their actions prior
to and after the realization of their pregnancy.
The analysis I present on the formation and development of the maternal identity is based on
extensive research and Social Psychology course texts. All research was conducted in a
controlled environment over the past two months and my use of course texts illustrate ways in
which my work is influenced by Social Psychology. My research entailed a survey and in-depth
interview of women who identify themselves as being a mother of one or more children. Fifty
subjects filled out a well-constructed survey inquiring about their age, ethnicity and age of their
eldest child. In regard to the time period during which their first child was born and turning one,
the survey inquired about their income level, employment stats, educational enrollment,
Maternal Identity
relationship status and how confident and accurate of their memory would be when referring to
this specific time period. Based on the results of my survey, twelve subjects were chosen to take
part in an in-depth interview pertaining to their experience of becoming a mother. The interviews
were audio recorded, coded and analyzed for similarities and differences in order to formulate
legitimate conclusions about the development of their maternal identities. I will present these
findings as evidence to prove my argument in my analysis of the maternal identity and provide
comparisons of my findings based on ethnicity, income level and age brackets. These
comparisons are based on single common factors. Therefore, when comparing subjects by
ethnicity, all income levels and age brackets are included and not compared separately.
The formation of the maternal identity in a woman begins unconsciously and emotionally
when she is a child through her interactions with her own mother. Nancy Scheper-Hughes,
author of Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil, writes, “Maternal
practices always begin as a response to the historical reality of a biological child in a particular
social world” (Scheper-Hughes 356). When asked about their idea of what it meant to be a
mother prior to actually becoming one, many of the mothers I interviewed responded with
comments similar to, “My own mother comes to mind and what she did for me.” In comparing
data, I found Latinas portrayed a stronger reference to their own mother in regard to the
formation of their maternal identities. I also found that Latinas felt more prepared and
comfortable in becoming a mother and accredited this to being raised in a large family. From this
I would suggest a strong maternal identity can be fostered and acquired through a strong
relationship with a woman’s own mother. Moreover, that the woman’s mother acquired her
strong maternal identity through her experience raising multiple children.
Maternal Identity
This notion that identities are acquired through a learning process and interaction with others
has been extensively studied and substantiated by many experts. Howard Becker helped alter the
course of Sociology through his research of marijuana users by illustrating how “the process of
interaction and learning helps us to identify an experience with a particular meaning” (O’Brien
129). Becker believed “the presence of a given kind of behavior is the result of a sequence of
social experiences during which the person acquires a conception of the meaning of the
behavior…” (Becker 141). In relation to the maternal identity, the process of learning names,
codes and meanings can be cognitively attained through societal norms, social situations and
reference groups. All subjects identified “nurturing” as a key component or characteristic in
relation to becoming a mother. However, in regard to their understanding of motherhood prior to
conception, very few believed mothering entailed much more than this. Once realization of
pregnancy occurred, some subjects began to acquire a better understanding of mothering through
cognitive research. Several subjects recalled reading the book What to Expect When You Are
Expecting and doing extensive research on-line. Taking birthing and new-born care classes
seemed to be a commonality as well. Many of the statements relating to this were similar to, “I
read every book I could find” and “we took all the classes offered.” In comparing data, I found
that Caucasians and subjects of higher income levels portrayed a stronger affinity for reference to
books in regard to the formation of their maternal identities. I also found that those with a higher
income level portrayed stronger preferences to taking classes and generally felt more prepared
and comfortable becoming a new mother. Another method used by my subjects in acquiring their
maternal identities involved obtaining the perspectives of reference groups for expecting/new
mothers. In the article Reference Groups as Perspectives, Tamotsu Shibutani explains “The
concept of reference group may be used to designate that group, real or imaginary, whose
Maternal Identity
standpoint is being used as the frame of reference by the actor. This provides some notion of the
meanings he is projecting upon the scene” (Shibutani 260). My research illustrates that the
primary reference groups of my subjects included their families, friends and co-workers. From
this finding, I would suggest that a strong maternal identity is acquired through gaining
knowledge through books, education and reference groups.
The context in which I studied the maternal identity entailed the uniting of mother and child
at the beginning of their lasting relationship of love and dependency. A detailed account of the
context includes being responsible for a living, breathing and ultimately needy human being that
is solely dependent upon its mother in all areas of its new life. My research illustrates the direct
outcome of interaction between my subject’s identities and the context was the actual
development of their maternal identities. Several subjects acknowledged this development of
identity when they interacted with the context by expressing similar statements as “I didn’t really
know what I was getting into until I brought the baby home” and “I thought I was prepared, but I
don’t think anyone can really be prepared until they are home with their baby.” The indirect
outcome of interaction with the context included temporary damage to or total demise of other
identities held by my subjects, including their professional and social identities. While all
subjects exhibited a partial loss of their social identity, those of higher income levels appeared to
be greatly affected more by the loss of their professional identities.
As previously stated, when my research subjects were initially united with their babies and
their relationships commenced, their maternal identities began to develop. In this sense, it is
important to acknowledge the correlation between the identity and the context in which the new
mothers found themselves. In addition to my research, the consequence of this association is
confirmed by theoretical writings as well. Social Philosopher, George Herbert Mead, theorizes
Maternal Identity
that “The self, as that which can be an object to itself, is essentially a social structure, and it
arises in social experience. After a self has arisen, it in a certain sense provides for itself its social
experiences…but it is impossible to conceive of a self arising outside of social experience”
(Mead 252). I interpreted Mead’s teachings to declare the “self” as the identity and the “social
experience” as the context in which the identity can be developed. Moreover, that without the
“social experience,” or context, the “self,” or identity, is not able to exist. This proves as
additional evidence that the maternal identity cannot develop without a relationship with the
Once at home with their newborn infants, my research subjects portrayed many similarities in
the social actions performed. The execution of these social actions contributes to a characteristic
to living out their motherly identities, which are primarily concerned with responding to the
basic needs of the baby. Some of the basic needs, which required a great deal of time and entail
several steps, included feeding, changing diapers, dressing, bathing, nurturing and protecting.
Protecting entails guarding their babies from illnesses, routine doctors visits, proper medication
and immunizations, and clothing them appropriately. Subjects also expressed they felt
responsible for protecting them from being harmed by others. Therefore, they did not visit highly
populated public venues or allow selective individuals or groups to intimately interact with their
child. Additionally, it was important for the mothers to protect their babies from self-inflicted
harm. In doing this, many of my research subjects “baby-proofed” their homes by placing locks
on cabinet doors, making electric cords inaccessible, covering electric outlets and blocking off
staircases and rooms that could be hazardous to the infant. Although most mothers confessed to
the tiring hours and demanding schedules of their infants, several of my research subjects
Maternal Identity
illustrated signs that performing these new social actions was a necessity in acting out their new
maternal identity.
My research also found several forms of behavior was greatly altered by these new
relationships that my subjects had with their babies. One of the initial changes to their behavior
when they were handed their baby was evident in their emotions. Several subjects, especially
those of higher income levels, expressed great amounts of uncontrollable mixed emotions. Many
subjects conveyed similar comments to “the first thing I did was cry” and “for the first couple
days I couldn’t look at him without crying.” All subjects expressed being affected by a
significant loss of sleep, with a bigger impact on individuals of higher income levels. Statements
included, “the biggest struggle was getting enough sleep” and “I didn’t know it was going to be
so tiring.” Some of my research subjects chose not to return to work after they gave birth to their
baby and expressed “I just couldn’t see myself leaving my baby. I wanted to be with her all the
time.” The act of liberating their social lives affected their behavior by requiring them to spend
more time at home and less time on the phone or going out with friends. In performing their
responsibility as a mother by providing protection for their infant, subjects expressed their daily
actions became more cautious and vigilant. Some of these forms of behavior included washing
their hands more regularly, cleaning their homes frequently and thoroughly, driving safely and
eating healthier to ensure they were able to provide acceptable protection for their child. Many of
the subjects expressed comments similar to, “I didn’t realize the protection aspect of being a
mother and how key it was in mothering.”
In addition to the relationship between mother and child affecting forms of behavior, my
research also proved that elements of thinking and belief systems were affected by the context as
well. A profound element of thinking which most drastically changed in several of my subjects
Maternal Identity
was the idea of what it meant to be a mother. Prior to becoming pregnant all subjects simply
characterized motherhood as being nurturing to infants. After being united with their child and
taking on all the responsibilities of mothering, all subjects associated protection and total
dependency as key facets to the maternal identity. In comparing data, I found Latinas associated
motherhood by “intense feelings of love” and those of higher income levels identified
motherhood as being characterized by “more than just love”. When asked if their idea of
mothering was extremely different after they had their baby, subjects that were older and of
higher income levels responded in approval. Another element of thinking that was altered by the
context was decision making. Daily decisions were influenced by the relationships my subjects
had with their babies. One subject explained, “Everything was about him [the baby] – every
action, every choice and every move.” This sort of mentality might explain another difference in
thinking, which was identified by my several subjects as having constant worry for their child
and what could happen to them. I found this alteration in thinking most prevalent in my subjects
of higher income levels.
Through social interaction with their child, my research subjects experienced stronger bonds
with their maternal identities. Jodi O’Brien, author of Production of Reality, introduces the
teachings of Phil Blumstein who theorized how identity presentation can eventually become an
expression of self, whereby “masks” become “selves”. O’Brien shared Blumstein’s teachings by
explaining “…many of the characteristics we tend to associate with “personality” actually
emerge and become constant through social interaction…the factors that contribute to this
transformation include repeated performance and role support from significant others” (O’Brien
237). My research corresponds with this theory in that several subjects expressed they were more
comfortable with the responsibilities of their maternal identities after time had passed and they
Maternal Identity
were able to create a routine. One subject emphasized, “After a few months had passed
everything became a routine and I became more comfortable being a mother.” This process of
routine is how the maternal identities of my subjects became their actual selves.
The impact of significant others on the formation, development and reinforcement of identity
has been apparent in both theoretical writings and my research. Long before Blumstein referred
to the term “significant others” in his interpretation of how “masks” become “selves”, Charles
Horton Cooley used the term to refer to those individuals whose beliefs and influence are
particularly significant in a person’s self evaluation. In his article, Looking-Glass Self, Cooley
theorizes, “…in imagination we perceive in another’s mind some thought of our appearance,
manners, aims, deeds, character, friends, and so on, and are variously affected by it” (Cooley
255) O’Brien further explains this idea by stating “The looking-glass self consists of an internal
image we generate about our self when we are trying to figure out what others think of us.
According to Cooley, significant others have a great deal of potential to shape our possible
selves, because we use perceived assessments from them to shape our own self-assessment”
(O’Brien 240). The most obvious and influential significant other for new mothers is the child.
As stated earlier, one of the ways in which my subjects lived out their identities was by
responding to the basic needs of their babies. When a child cries for attention and the mother
responds by nurturing them, the mother’s actions are reinforced. The child’s approval acts as a
key indicator that she is correct in her actions. All of my research subjects identified their mother
as a vital significant other in their lives. Many expressed similar comments such as “I went to my
mom for everything” and “The first thing I did was ask my mom.” Other significant others of my
research subjects included additional family members, friends and co-workers. During data
comparison, I discovered subjects in the younger age bracket and of higher income levels
Maternal Identity
expressed a greater dependence on significant others. Role support from these significant others
act as a key factor in both the development and reinforcement of the maternal identity.
The journey a woman embarks on when she becomes a mother and acquires a new identity is
both rewarding and demanding. As a mother myself, I experienced the formation and
development of my maternal identity, witnessing it transform from an unstable idea that floated
around in my mind to a permanent self that defines who I am as a whole. My journey is much
similar to my research subjects in that the actual development of my maternal identity did not
occur until faced with the challenges of mothering. Once at home with my baby and confronted
with these demanding challenges, I immediately questioned my ability as a mother, realizing I
had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I quickly sought out to acquire information from every
avenue I could find, including classes, books and experienced mothers in my life. Much like my
research subjects, I watched myself grow and transform into an entirely different woman,
carrying out duties and multi-tasking to an extent I’d never thought possible. By creating
routines, sticking to schedules and allowing myself to receive my baby’s signs of approval, I
became comfortable in my new identity. It took over my entire self, inside and out, and became
everything I am today.
Maternal Identity
Works Cited
From Masks to Selves. (2006). In The Production of Reality (4th ed., pp. 257-262). Thousand Oaks, CA:
Pine Forge Press. (Reprinted from Reference Groups as Perspectives, by T. Shibutani)
From Masks to Selves. (2006). In The Production of Reality (4th ed., pp. 236-257). Thousand Oaks,
CA: Pine Forge Press. (Reprinted from Looking-glass Self, pp. 182-185, by C. H. Cooley, 1983,
New York: Transaction Publishers)
From Masks to Selves. (2006). In The Production of Reality From Masks to Selves (4th ed., pp. 250254). Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. (Reprinted from The Self, the I, and the Me, by G.
H. Mead, 1934, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago)
Meaning is Negotiated Through Interaction. (2006). In The Production of Reality (4th ed., pp. 140-148).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. (Reprinted from Becoming a Marihuana User, by H. S.
Becker, 1953)
O’Brien, J. (2006). The production of reality (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Soc 150 Reader (Vol. 1, pp. 255-287). (n.d.). (Reprinted from Death Without Weeping, pp. 340-399, by
N. Scheper-Hughes, 1992, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press)
Sociology 150
Spring 2019
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