Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Mothering against the Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Mothering against the Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers

Article excerpt

Mothering Against the Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers. Cynthia Garcia Coll, Janet L. Surrey, & Kathy Weingarten (Eds.). New York: Guilford Press. 1998. 278 pp. ISBN 1-57230339-5. $18.95 paper.

Much of what is commonly believed about mothering is colored by deeply held and idealized notions of motherhood and womanhood which persist despite immense variability in women's actual experiences. Motherhood ideology in western society is a prescriptive system of thought and behavior which primarily reflects the values of dominant social groups. It does not encompass the diverse experiences of mothers, especially those outside dominant groups, and provides an impossible yet widely accepted normative standard that is employed in the positive and negative sanctioning of women. Mothering Against the Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers examines the adverse impact of motherhood ideology on the well-being of diverse groups of mothers, focusing particularly on the experiences of marginalized mothers.

Although there is no particular organization of the readings in terms of issues addressed, the book is divided into three sections. Presumably this was done in order to restrict the breadth of topics reviewed in the discussion segments following each of the book's three sections. The discussions provide an extension and synthesis of the issues examined in each chapter.

Using a feminist social psychological perspective, the authors of the 12 chapters in this edited volume examine the mothering experiences of women in diverse social locations. The problems of mothers of adolescents, mothers of exceptional children, and homeless and immigrant mothers are examined in the first section. The second section addresses the problems of gay and lesbian parents, bicultural mothers, single mothers, and mothers living with HIV/AIDS. The final section presents selections on adoptive mothers, African American welfare mothers, teen mothers, and incarcerated mothers. These mothering experiences are explored in terms of how they diverge from the ideal, how they are evaluated with respect to the ideal, and how the social and psychological impact of motherhood ideology help to shape the mothers' identities and wellbeing, as well as their responses. …

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