Developmental changepoints: the birth of a first child

Friedman, Merle
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The present study is set within the broad area of adult development and functioning. It is primarily located within the developmental theory of Erik Brikson, who described development, not only frem the perspective of the growing child, hut with the understanding ox the continuity of development over the entire life cycle (1878). As this represents m area of relatively recent concern, there are many gaps in the literature. A cognitive map in the fom of a hypothetical construct ten&ad the- Transitional Space was described and developed in this woi-k, to facilitate tha undetstartiing of both, individual and cduyle development and functioning. This hypothetical construct was based on Winnicott's (1971) original notion of transitional phenomena, which he located as being between inner and outer reality. The Transitional space may be briefly described as that part of the inner world that is projected outwards, and both reflects the internal frame of reference through which the perception of the world is filtered, as well as those aspects of hidden inner reality that are perceived by others as being "me". The Transitional Space comprises three aspects, namely: boundary quality, content, and size. Boundary quality of the Transitional Space reflects the ability of the individual for intimate contact, and id described in terms of the parameters of flexibility and permeability. The content of the Transitional -pace is described as that aspect that is concerned with ego identity (Erikson 1968). Finally, the aspect of the size of the Transitional space isNa reflection of progression along the continuum of ego development as operationalizud by Loevinyer et al (1970):. ” " ' As it has been found that systems are most accessible to observation and study during periods of change, it was decided to locate the study at a point of developmental change or crisis. The period selected for investigation was the tisite around the birth of the first child, and thus the transition to parenthood. In response to evidence of a need in the literature, a model was derived to both describe and explain the changes over this period. The model of change was based on the findings of. Janis (1958), in terms of preparation for change, and regression in the face of stress, as well as the theory of "romantic solutions" to transitional periods (Becker, 1973) and the cyclicity of the romantic experience (Livingston, 1980). The model was integrated with tije sociological model of LaRossa and laRossa (1981), to form a more canprehensive description and explanation of the process of the ■ transition to parenthood. ; The first aim in the study was to describe and predict adult and couple functioning on the basis of the model of thi Transitional Space, with special reference to the changepoint of the transition to
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand, infulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. NOVEMBER, 1987