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SCIENTIFIC MEETING – Mothering Alone: A Plea for Opportunity

SCIENTIFIC MEETING - Mothering Alone: A Plea for Opportunity

Presenter: Mary Kay O’Neil, PhD, C. Psych

Wednesday, April 17, 2024: 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm (no break)

TPS Scientific Meeting: Open to All (*Fee may apply. See below.)

** DISTANCE PARTICIPATION ONLY – Registration deadline is one week prior to the meeting. Preregistration is required.

This book, the focus of my presentation, came about in two phases: the initial phase comprised the formal research report supported by the Chagnon Foundation of Montreal. The second phase was stimulated by my taped and transcribed interviews of 58 women mothering alone. It was the generosity, courage, and strength of these mothers, who told their stories openly and honestly, that made it possible to study what it is like to “mother alone”. The women, in the study, hampered by limited resources, are contrasted with women from different decades, in literature, biography and clinical experience who had sufficient internal and external resources to raise their children alone.

Divided into three parts, Part I focuses on the history and shifts in societal attitudes toward single motherhood, and also on maternal tasks, as well as on the influence of relational and other experiences on the women’s decision to give birth and mother alone. Part II explores (within a psychoanalytic context) three characteristics basic to maternal growth and effective mothering – resilience, autonomy, caring. Part III considers what has been learned from these mothers, in the light of current psychological understanding, and outlines society’s role in providing the opportunity for women mothering alone to become successful mothers.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this presentation participants will be able to:

  1. Assess for themselves the primary purpose of this presentation which is to emphasize a UNICEF report (2006) statement – “The lives of women are inextricably linked to the well-being of children. If they are not educated, if they are not healthy, if they are not empowered, the children are the ones who suffer.”
  2. Identify the psychological and social challenges faced by women mothering alone without sufficient resources.
  3. Recognize that much can be learned about the capacity for motherhood and the basic characteristics of resilience, autonomy and caring from women without resources who are mothering alone and who are not patients.
  4. Identify the contributors to psychological development of effective mothering and society’s responsibility to provide opportunity.

Recommended Readings (not required):

Balsam, R. (2000) The Mother Within the Mother. Psych Quarterly. 38:28-51.

Balsam, R. (2012) Women’s Bodies in Psychoanalysis. New York: Routledge.

Cobb, S. (1976) Social Support as a Moderator of Life Stress. Psychosomatic Medicine. 38: 300-314.

Fessler, Ann. (2006) The Girls Who Went Away. New York: The Penguin Press.

Jacobson, E. (1968) On the Development of the Girl’s Wish for a Child. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 37:523-538.

O’Neil, MK., Capel, T., Hachey, L. (2008) Program Outcome Study: Contributors to Mother Child Development. Report to ‘Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon’. Montreal: Residence Project Chance Inc:

Winnicott, DW. (1963) The Development of the Capacity for Concern (pp.73-82). In: The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development. (1965) The International Psycho-Analytical Library. 64: 1-276. London: The Hogarth Press & The Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

* Registration/RSVP

Please note that there is a $35.00 fee for participants who are not CPS members, TPS Affiliate/Guests or TIP Candidates.

CPS members, TPS Affiliate/Guests or TIP Candidates – Please RSVP by email to

Mary Kay O’Neil PhD, C. Psych

Mary Kay O’Neil PhD, C. Psych, a supervising and training psychoanalyst and a registered psychologist in private practice trained at the TIP. She is past director of Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis (QE), President Emeritus of NAPsaC, vice-President of TPS Board of Directors, member of TIP and formally North American representative on the IPA Board. She has served on a number of local, national and international committees (e.g. IPA Publications, Ethics and Financial Committees) and on the editorial board of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. Author of The Unsung Psychoanalyst: The Quiet Influence of Ruth Easser, and Mothering Alone: A Plea for Opportunity, she co-edited six other psychoanalytic books and has contributed numerous journal articles as well as chapters and book reviews. Her research includes studies of depression, young adult development, sole-support mothers, post-termination contact, and psychoanalytic ethics. Her research has been funded by Foundations in Toronto and Montreal.

This event is eligible for Section 1 CME credits (0.5 credits/hour). This event is an accredited group learning activity (section 1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certificate Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, approved by the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA). The specific opinions and content of this event are not necessarily those of the CPA, and are the responsibility of the organizer(s) alone. As per the Royal College standard, each presentation provides a minimum of 25% interactive learning.

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