Diversity Hits the Books - Alumni Magazine

In psychology you usually learn about mothers only insofar as they affect children’s clinical outcomes, but Aurelie flips that paradigm.

As an undergraduate women’s studies major, Marie Hansen realized that courses in other departments mostly ignored women. “To learn about women’s psychological development, you had to look in women’s studies,” recalls Hansen, now a TC Counseling and Clinical Psychology master’s student. “Women’s studies is interdisciplinary, so it didn’t go as deep as a psychology course taught by a psychologist.” 

Last fall, Hansen took The Mother-Child Matrix, taught by Aurelie Athan, director of TC’s Maternal Psychology Laboratory. Athan is a leader in the fledgling field of “matrescence,” which views the transition to motherhood as a developmental phase like adolescence and other periods of major physical change. Her course is part of a broader initiative, The Sexuality, Women, & Gender Project (SWG), which she and two other psychology faculty members, Assistant Professor Melanie Brewster and Lecturer Riddhi Sandil, created in fall 2012. 

Hansen says about Athan's class, “We read articles, mostly from the nursing field. We interviewed mothers. It was exciting, because growing up you see a lot of images that don’t reflect what it feels like to be female. TC is creating a counter-narrative.” 

The class also illustrated the real-world impact of consigning work about women to the women’s studies corner. “Eighty-three percent of women become mothers,” Hansen says. “Motherhood is a radical shift in identity. Everyone knows about the baby blues, yet DSM-5 [the diagnostic manual for practicing psychologists and psychiatrists] has no distinguished diagnosis for postpartum depression.” 

Read full article here.