Rubens Gerchman, Preview, 1966. Photographic reproduction by unknown author.


Presentation of the newly released book.

About the origins: far beyond the mother

In December 1958, at the meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association in New York, the Hungarian psychoanalyst Therese Benedek gave a lecture entitled “Parenting as a phase of development: a contribution to the libido theory”, in which she thought the term “parenting” to from a developmental perspective. As the title explains, the author will defend a phase of libidinal development linked to becoming a father/mother, which puts us before the inevitable question of what can be said about subjects who do not have children.

After all, unlike childhood and adolescence, parenting is contingent, and its absence cannot be assumed as a limitation. Benedek is an important author, who has made significant contributions to psychoanalytic and feminist thought, but, like all of us, she is not free from the assumptions of her time. That said, it is worth recommending reading her work, whose insights about the relationship between parents and children – especially mothers and their babies – are of great value.

I introduce the first volume of the Coleção Psicanálise & Parentalidade by quoting the author who would have coined the term “parenting” with the aim of pointing to the fact that, over these more than sixty years, its use has lent itself to divergent interpretations, without losing, however, , relevance.

Two mistakes in the use of the term stand out. One in which parenting is associated with the instrumentalization of paternity/maternity, much like the university discourse, as described by Lacan, in which knowledge is acquired without remains or edges, replicable, guaranteed and desubjectivated. To complete, the “know-how” of parenting would be acquired at affordable prices, to capitalist taste. The other misconception concerns the assumption that parenting comes down to the relationship between the woman/mother and her baby, which has been overvalued since the XNUMXth century, as the philosopher Elisabeth Badinter points out in the now classic A conquered love: the myth of maternal love (1980). That said, it is up to us to introduce the way we understand parenting and justify the choice to approach it through psychoanalysis.

If in the 1960s – and until very recently – the balance of parenting weighed heavily in favor of the mother-baby bond, the 2000s saw the emergence of questions about gender, raciality, social vulnerability and culture that were impossible to ignore. Until then, the relationship between the mother and her baby (preferably the biological one) – whose studies were fundamental to understanding the constitution of the subject – served as a paradigm of parenting. Other configurations such as: adoptive mothers/fathers and their adopted babies; caregivers not related to the baby; families with gender configurations or sexual orientation outside the cisgender/heterosexual pattern; Medically assisted reproduction, in short, recurring themes in current clinical practice, were seen as deviations from the norm. The father, the mother and their biological baby would serve as a template for the ideal situation, and the other situations, as mockery for which the psychoanalyst is called to diagnose and treat.

The oedipal structural model – mistakenly read in the imaginary key real father-mother-baby – ended up supporting the bourgeois family as a structure that would guarantee the mental health of the offspring. If psychoanalysis was used as ammunition for a clearly ideological model of parenting, this is due to a complex combination of conditions offered by capitalism, the need to reproduce hegemonic social norms, but also the narcissistic wound that the family romance seeks to buffer in the form of the parental myth.

Parenting as a practice that guarantees the constitution, training and education of subjects reveals its dark face. The obsessive search for guarantees is one of the great questions of our time, which finds in today's specialist the alleged answers that were imputed to the religious myths of yesteryear.

far beyond the mother

Thinking about the ties that a generation establishes to be able to reproduce bodies and, mainly, subjects, implies going far beyond what happens between a mother and her child, without, however, minimizing the importance of fundamental ties in the one-on-one relationship. It is, on the contrary, a matter of reflecting on the scope and limits of these relationships, giving them their due value, so that the mother is not imputed with historical responsibilities and faults, which do not belong to her.

The reproduction of the social bond depends on the relationship between subjects born with different biological competences to procreate, mediated or not by medicine. From this indisputable fact, the transmission of cultural values, social places, transgenerationality in close relationship with the minimal family structure. It is in this conjunction between the real and the incessant attempt to imagine and symbolize it that subjects are produced, the ultimate reason for psychoanalysis.

Without taking this into account, we perpetuate the most clumsy use that can be made of the term “parenting”: instrumentalization of a supposed knowledge that would allow the control of generational transmission without fail. The imaginary consistency of the figures of father and mother, the recurring mistakes in the use of the terms “maternal function” and “paternal function”, the appeal to the specialist who prevents and guarantees are there to exemplify this risk.

“Father” and “mother” are terms problematized by psychoanalysis that produce imaginary effects in the clinic and in theory. Its use points to biological interpretation, to law, to gender, to roles, to education, to functions.

If we think of biological terms, it is easy to identify the subject whose sex is assigned as being male as potential father and whose sex is assigned as being female as potential mother. In this sense, the reproductive task would support a distinction that is based on the well-known fact that people born with or without a uterus live very different bodily experiences when procreating. The fugacity of ejaculation is opposed to the materiality of the baby's body inside someone's body during pregnancy. The terms “maternity” and “paternity” tend to rely on this difference, ignoring the fact that we cannot unequivocally deduce how these experiences affect each subject in their uniqueness.

With regard to the law, we know that it is up to the law to define who can and who cannot socially be called a father/mother. Not always the father / mother in law perform the supposed functions, and many other solutions can occur.

The clinic brings us cases of gender transition to shuffle the cards and unscramble imaginary effects arising from the consistencies that body image interpretations can produce. In cases, for example, in which a person born with a uterus identifies as a man or a gender other than a woman, the tendency is for the signifiers father/mother to be interchangeable or fixed in the sex designated in the transition. In this case, the genders man/woman would determine the choice of the terms father/mother as much as biological procreation. Non-binary or intersex subjects bring us even more questions, such as the use of the neologism “map” – contraction of mamother and pafather--or the use of the given name of the guardian. The clinic of gender transitions reveals that the biological sharing of procreation – the entire perinatal cycle of pregnancy, childbirth, puerperium and breastfeeding – does not unequivocally support the use of the terms father/mother, undermining one of the pillars of its justification.

With regard to the papers, we will have a myriad of customs reminding us that, although the task of caring for children has been, throughout history, hegemonically the people who conceived, the variations are enormous. Today's father/mother roles respond to the historical period in which we are inserted and reproduce the bourgeois, cis, patriarchal and heterosexual model.

It is easily evident how the precariousness of working conditions and social conditions have a direct effect on parenting thought in private and neoliberal terms. Caring for children has reached the current unsustainable situation, in which they are seen as the sole and sole responsibility of mothers, exemplified by mothers who are heads of households in Brazil. In no previous historical period, except in extreme situations of wars and calamities, motherhood was imagined as an individual task, even if it was primarily female. The social illness resulting from this fact is notorious in the psychoanalytic clinic. It is a society that disastrously persists in reducing the responsibilities of caring for the new generations to the already overburdened women, in a catastrophic way.

At this point, it is worth discussing what psychoanalysis refers to when it uses “the maternal” or “function Paterna”, in times when social responsibilities regarding kinship erroneously fall on mothers and women.

The psychoanalytic contribution

Averse to discourses that promise prediction and guarantees, psychoanalysis is concerned with listening to what accounts for the production of phenomena, as well as what points to the incompleteness of knowledge and to what escapes the possibilities of apprehension through language. Experience is always greater than language, which is incapable of fully encompassing it. That remainder that escapes him continues to insist on not being said. From this difference between experience and language emerges an incessant production of symptoms, slips, dreams, but also of theories, art, religions.

The psychoanalyst is the one who listens to the noise, the dissonant, the very thing that the sciences try to ignore. By focusing its attention on what is most intimate and foreign in us – what moves us and what we try to ignore – psychoanalysis does not do so with the intention of cataloging yet another disease, deviation or aberration. Contradicting the expectations of pathologizing and hastily classifying everything, creating an endless nosographic list – as we can see in the current diagnostic manuals of mental disorders –, the psychoanalytic discourse recognizes in the forms of human suffering the possible expressions of a unique subjectivity and of the time in which it lives. inserted.

Against the growing specialization characteristic of capitalist modes – to segment to produce more and better – psychoanalysis points to the subject of the unconscious and its uniqueness. There are, therefore, no specializations in psychoanalysis, as the pretension of totalizing knowledge in the human field leads to deafness of what is unique and unique to each one. The clinic confronts us with this fact at all times. Even physicians, driven by the logic of creating protocols for previously mapped diseases, are able to recognize in their clinic that different subjects respond differently to the same conditions and treatments.

Approaching parenting from psychoanalysis aims to put in the foreground the importance of listening to how anguish emerges in the parental phenomenon in each subject, on the one hand, and the responses that culture has produced in the face of this phenomenon in our time, on the other. Far from being constituted as specialized knowledge, it is a question of cutting out a fertile field of study to address the challenges encountered at this moment in life that, as parents or as children, crosses all of us. Parenting engenders a spectrum of events that can be mapped at different levels, and this can help us to limit noise when listening to singularities, but not to generalize them. Each subject, from the elaboration of his unique story, will respond in a unique way to the forces that the parental field summons. It is up to the psychoanalyst to listen to it, aware of what these forces are, but without claiming to know in advance the responses that the subject will produce, nor the fate that he will be able to give to these events.

The reproduction of the social bond

The reproduction of the social bond implies the maintenance of positions that are perpetuated generation after generation. Piera Aulagnier alerted us to the narcissistic contract that is inherited at birth and that promotes the coordinates of the symbolic inheritance. Thinking about parenting forces us to recognize that the subjects are subjected to different experiences in caring for their offspring and that being born black or indigenous, for example, in the peripheries of the world implies being subjected to a field of phenomena different from the white child born outside of social situations. of social vulnerability. Just as feminism needed to incorporate gender, raciality, social vulnerability, sexual orientation and exile in its discussions, psychoanalysis cannot avoid thinking about the crossing that these realities have in social pathologies and singularities and, therefore, in parenting. Aware that each subject will respond in a unique way to the phenomena, we cannot refrain from studying them, under penalty of reproducing their ills.

Thus, we will have an eminently critical approach to the conditions in which the fundamental ties have been reproduced far beyond the caregiver-baby duo without, however, losing sight of it.

Covering such a vast topic implies choosing some paths over others. In the following chapters, the paths chosen are exposed with the intention of contributing to the discussion initiated by Freud, when he asked himself about the origin of the psyche and about the fundamental bonds that engender it. Discussions about the ideological use of the term parenting; the choice of psychoanalysis as a way to approach it; the reproduction of bodies – which among humans is always crossed by the symbolic; you ties that engender subjects; the studies of genre and its noises in theory and in the clinic; and the times, that found our existence, are brought in the five volumes of this collection with the intention of allowing the vast field of parenting, defined here as the "production of speeches and the conditions offered by the previous generation for a new generation to be subjectively constituted in a given time” is minimally contemplated. For this, we chose the themes: Parenting, Bonding, Gender, Body and Time as the axes of the collection that we inaugurate here.

The clinic to guide us

The clinic with pregnant women and with mothers and fathers of babies has shown that the transformations of the body in perinatality and the subjective movements necessary for the construction of the parental place require intense psychological work and, many times, produce disruptive effects. It is not uncommon to see men and women dealing with suicide and threats to the lives of their babies, or even involved in delusional constructions and inhibitions that impede or disturb different areas of their lives. These situations call us to reflect on what we hear in so many other cases in which the experience of helplessness and emotional vulnerability accompany transformations and illnesses.

The authors who accepted the challenge of sharing their theoretical-clinical reflections in the field of parenting from the psychoanalytic approach – as well as the guests who provided us with interfaces of other knowledge – are exemplary in understanding the inextricable relationship between subjectivity, social bond and time .

The chapters that make up this volume give consequences to the questions above, worked on by authors aware of the complexity of the subject. Far from proposing reductionism, the texts maintain the difficult balance between the rigorous transmission of psychoanalysis and language that is more accessible to other readers. In addition, they form a network of reflections in which the reading of a chapter raises questions to be tensioned in another, and so on.

Miriam Debieux presents us with the chapter “Pass ring: families, transmission and tradition", in which he points to the reproduction of the exclusionary ties to which parenting lends itself and the ethical need for us to be aware of this. Fundamental text for us to think about what we reproduce, when we produce a new generation and what would be the role of the professional in ideological crossings. His text points out the necessary criticism so that the clinic does not become hostage to the means of segregation, betting on the twists and turns that the exercise of parenting produces.

We also have the always valuable contribution of Christian Dunker, who discusses the issue of the effects of parenting on conjugality in the chapter “Libidinal economy of parenting”. This theme is even more significant in times when love and family relationships are not supported by the social imperatives of the past. The impact that the arrival of the child promotes on the couple's libidinal organization finds a precious development in Dunker's chapter, in which the author proposes a more accurate listening to this crucial moment of love relationships and the economic/libidinal factors at play.

Thais Garrafa dives into the distinction between maternal function and position – not necessarily referring to mothers –, breaking free from the mistaken uses that swirl around the theme when approaching the “Early times of parenting”. Using the concepts of “act”, “semblant” and “transitivism” with rigor and relevance, she advances studies on these functions, so insistently imagined. Text that sets very important landmarks for theory and, consequently, for clinical listening by focusing on the effects of the act that the assumption of the father and mother countenances have on those who perform it and the logical time in which they are based.

In the chapter “Reproduction of bodies and subjects: the perinatal question”, I try to work on the theme of perinatality (pregnancy-delivery-puerperium) somewhat neglected by psychoanalysis. I question the implicit interpretation in some psychologizing readings that the biological mother's experience would bring some advantage to the construction of parenthood when compared to other caregivers who did not get pregnant and give birth. Violence during childbirth is also part of the discussion about the cultural, gender and racial situation from which puerperal women and babies have emerged in our society.

Daniela Teperman, in the section reserved for the issue of malaise in our time, brings the chapter “Parenting for all, not without each one's family”. In it, she discusses, based on her long and recognized research in the field, the incessant quest to attribute consistency to the father and mother countenances in the mistaken use that is made of the term “parenting”. She also alerts us to an alleged desexualization of family transmission that symptomatically returns in the form of violence against children, one of the most poignant expressions of contemporary malaise.

Sociologist Marília Moschkovich closes this volume, in the section dedicated to interlocution with other knowledge. Inspired, she uses the fictional Ludovico Technique, created by Anthony Burgess in the novel clockwork orange (1962), to think about gender issues in parenting in the chapter “About mechanical oranges, feminism and psychoanalysis: nature and culture in the dialectic of voluntary alienation”. A very important contribution for stressing the issues of parenting and feminism, placing the unequal gender division in terms of care, housework and reproductive tasks at the center of the debate.

Here follows our bet that a work with parenting that dialogues with diverse knowledge has more to contribute to the understanding of the conditions in which subjects constitute themselves as fathers, mothers and caregivers. From then on, it is the very constitution of the subject that is at stake.

*Vera Iaconelli, psychoanalyst, holds a doctorate in psychology from USP. Author, among other books, of Discomfort in motherhood: from infanticide to the maternal function (Zagodoni).


Daniela Teperman, Thais Garrafa & Vera Iaconelli (eds.). Parenting. Belo Horizonte, Autêntica, Belo Horizonte, 2020, 126 pages.


AULAGNIER, P. The violence of interpretation: from the pictogram to the statement. Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1979.

BADINTER, E. A conquered love: the myth of maternal love. Rio de Janeiro: New Frontier, 1985.

BENEDEK, T. Parenthood as a developmental phase: contribution to the libido theory. American Psychology Association Journal, n.

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