Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology


A phenomenological method of qualitative inquiry is used to capture the experiences of maternal ambivalence while mothering first-born, early adolescents. From the nave descriptions of seven participants a description of and response to maternal ambivalence are examined. Major findings include three overarching domains: (1) maternal context, (2) shared essence of maternal ambivalence, and (3) participants' responses to maternal ambivalence. Findings relevant to contextual variables identified as influencing mothers' daily lives with their adolescents include: (a) perceptions of their adolescent, (b) perceptions of their adolescents changing context, and (c) participants' marital status. Data comprising the shared essence of maternal ambivalence include: (a) maternal role; (b) perceptions of self, other, and relationship shifts; and (c) establishment of limits and boundaries in participants' relationships with their adolescents. Perceptions of the maternal role included descriptions of a loss of omniscience and omnipotence in their relationships with their adolescents, internalized notions of the ideal mother, evaluations of their maternal effectiveness, and the centrality of the maternal role. Participants also described their perceptions of self, other, and relationship shifts that helped delineate the shared essence of maternal ambivalence. Participants described shifts in all components in the object-relation's triad and the tension between old and new meaning constructions during this transitional time with the adolescent. The final grouping of data pertinent to the shared essence of maternal ambivalence is the mothers' struggle with the negotiation and imposition of limits and freedom in the adolescents' expanding context. The final domain describes findings related to the participants' responses to maternal ambivalence. Mothers remained subject to old meaning constructions, were beginning to imagine new meaning constructions, and were uncertain of how to navigate between. Transitions might be times when psychological meanings no longer fit one's current lived experiences. Developmental movement is often about dynamic relational shifts and renegotiating meanings about self, other, and relationship. With the adolescent's development the mother is also engaged with her adolescent in an ongoing interplay between redefining the self, other, and relationship. The clinical implications of the function of maternal ambivalence and participants' attempts to negotiate a new meaning balance are presented.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access