A Projective Technique for Investigating
Parental Attitudes: A Preliminary Report
Serge G. Stoleru, M.D.
Marianne Reigner, Ph.D.,
Martine M. Morales, Ph.D.
This is a preliminary report of our efforts to develop and validate an instrument with which to assess parental attitudes, during pregnancy and the early months, of interaction between an infant and his or her parents. Specifically we describe the results of comparing parental responses to various photographs of infants and toddlers with data from clinical interviews with the same subjects. The project has been undertaken with a view to providing a clinical tool to illuminate those parental attitudes which constitute a major aspect of the psychology and psychopathology of pregnancy and of the early months following the baby's birth. Such an instrument could also be useful in helping determine for which cases and on which grounds early intervention is required.
We have considered parental attitudes from two theoretical viewpoints, the first in relation to the mothers' general psychic functioning, to their own childhood, to their psychological conflicts, and especially to the Oedipus complex. The second is a developmental viewpoint in which parenthood, most particularly with the first child (Benedek, 1959, 1975), is seen as
a step toward the maturation of the personality. These two views are complementary in delineating the way in which a person organizes the course of his or her life, given that person's individual and specific personality and psychological functioning (Erikson, 1980).
Data is reported here from the first of three planned clinical "contacts," the first being during pregnancy, the second within the first postpartum week, and the third during the infant's sixth month of life. Each contact is composed of a clinical interview focused on the experience of pregnancy and attitudes related to the baby, and the presentation of twenty photographs of parent-child dyads or of infants and toddlers in various situations (playing, feeding, and so forth). The examiner asks the subjects to describe their responses to the pictures and to tell a story that might account for the scene observed. A similar projective technique was used by Bibring and her colleagues (1961) with a set of pictures called the Pregnancy Evaluation Test. In the present investigation, both the clinical interviews and the picture presentations were videotaped.____________________