Original Research

Slipping and holding minds: A psychosocial analysis of maternal subjectivity in relation to childhood disability

Lisa Saville Young, Jessie Berry
African Journal of Disability | Vol 5, No 1 | a266 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v5i1.266 | © 2016 Lisa Saville Young, Jessie Berry | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 February 2016 | Published: 26 July 2016

About the author(s)

Lisa Saville Young, Department of Psychology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Jessie Berry, Department of Psychology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa


Background: This paper elucidates a methodological approach to interview text that tries to acknowledge the psychosocial nature of disability and thereby ensuring that empirical work in disability studies complements theoretical arguments already developed.

Objectives: The aim of this study is to outline a psychosocial conceptualisation of maternal subjectivity in relation to childhood disability and to apply this conceptualisation as an analytic tool to segments of an interview with a mother of a child with physical and developmental disabilities.

Method: Drawing on psychoanalysis and attachment literature alongside critical social psychology we take readers through the analysis of an interview extract with a particular mother. Through a fine grained analysis, we demonstrate the value of attending to the affective processes in and around the text rooted in the particular intersubjective exchange (‘here and how’) of the interview and the particular socio-historical context (‘there and then’) in which the mother, child and researcher are located.

Findings: The reading draws attention to discourses that position this particular mother and her children in particular ways while also pointing to investments in these discourses such that these discourses are not purely social but play affective functions.

Conclusion: This paper demonstrates the value of using multiple lenses to read the text, seeking to understand what is going on from within each lens (discursive/social, interpersonal, intrapsychic), while also seeking to disrupt this understanding as we take up the position of a different lens. This approach enables us to hold onto the complexity and locatedness of maternal subjectivity for mothers of children with disabilities.


psychosocial, maternal subjectivity, childhood disability, psychoanalysis, attachment


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Crossref Citations

1. Feminine sexual desire and shame in the classroom: an educator’s constructions of and investments in sexuality education
Lisa Saville Young, Dale Moodley, Catriona Ida Macleod
Sex Education  vol: 19  issue: 4  first page: 486  year: 2019  
doi: 10.1080/14681811.2018.1511974