Maternity Construct Transformation: Reasons And Factors


The article is devoted to the study of motherhood phenomenon, which has its own physiological mechanisms, evolutionary history, etc. Motherhood is a biological, social function that ensures the reproduction of the population. At different historical periods, the attitude towards this phenomenon was not unambiguous: from the traditional perception of women solely as a source of reproduction and upbringing to the propaganda of women's reproductive freedom at the state level as an integral component of human rights. The emancipation of women, their mass “exit” from the family to the public sphere led to a fall in the birth rate, and the transformation of their views on the structure of their gender role. This process was also affected by social and economic and social and cultural changes of the last decades. A modern woman was faced with a choice between sociocentric and egocentric values. The choice of the vector of reproductive behavior is determined; most often not by traditional ideas and stereotypes of behavior, but by specific circumstances that turn out to be more significant for her than the principles of law and sexual morality. Attitude towards maternity depends on a number of factors. The way out of the crisis can be the formation of a new social orientation towards motherhood, that is, a stable predisposition towards a positive assessment of childbearing, expressed in a sequence of behavior. Raising a culture of motherhood should be a necessary step towards changing the negative effects of the transformation of this phenomenon.

Keywords: Maternitytransformationemancipationconstructgender


The increasing pace of globalization throughout the world has led to the transformation of virtually all spheres of life. Currently, there is a leveling of traditional values, which are not limited to economics and politics. In the social sphere, this is particularly acute for the family, issues of maternity, gender behavior and perception of the image of a man and a woman. For most people, the family is children, the ability to continue the race, to receive emotional support and a sense of security, security. Traditionally, for a woman, the possibility of creating a family was directly related to the possibility of motherhood. However, the realities of the modern world prove that not always the birth of children is a consequence of marriage, just as marriage did not become associated with the necessity of having children. The transformation of attitudes toward marriage and family led to the transformation of the construct of motherhood.

Problem Statement

Maternity is a complex phenomenon with its own physiological mechanisms, evolutionary history, cultural and individual characteristics. In every culture there is a whole institution of motherhood, which as an integral part includes ways of educating a woman as a mother. From a cultural point of view, motherhood is the main and most important biological and social function of a woman, important for her personal life, her family and society as a whole.

Until recent period, social and professional roles of a woman, and not her maternal functions, came to the fore in our country. This trend was due to a number of historical factors that influenced the transformation of the sociocultural reality of Russian society and collective female consciousness, in particular.

Research Questions

Even before the 19th century, the question of the need to implement the function of motherhood was considered incorrect and meaningless, since women were completely at the mercy of their fertility. Attempts by radical feminists to prove to society that the reproductive freedom of women is an inalienable component of human rights, faced with moral and medical opposition, and the distribution of contraceptives with the problem of legislative legitimization. In traditional society, the social status of women grew in proportion to the increase in the number of children in the family.

The access to education and professional, especially intellectual activities in the 20th century became not only the most important gain of feminism, but also a factor in the liberation of women from sexual control, the enforcement of the role of "giving birth machine". Social transformations have gradually made adjustments in the perception by women of their potential motherhood.

The emancipation of women, their mass “exit” from the family to the public sphere led to a fall in the birth rate, and the transformation of their views on the structure of their gender role. If earlier motherhood was an integral part of the gender role of a woman, now there is a threat of excluding him from her social history.

Bolsheviks had a great influence on the reproductive consciousness of Russian women. In March 1919, at the Eighth Congress of the RCP (b) the deputy head of the All-Russian Wife Department Kollontai (1972) stated that women need to get rid of the centuries-old bondage and enslavement of women by the economy and family. In the first place, she proposed to build a nursery, the mother’s house, to create institutions where social education would be carried out in its entirety.

The task of Bolsheviks was to create a platform for the socialist education of the new man: children's colonies, and labor communes. State propaganda argued that mothers are in a great hurry to send their children to state educational institutions.

The communist emancipation of women took place in the context of the policy of "War Communism". In April 1919, the Council of People's Commissars issued a decree on total mobilization, which implemented the proclaimed principle of labor service. In June, the introduction of workbooks began, tightening the system of control over workers. Women were forced into forced labor. At a time when women were employed in the workplace, children, in most cases, found themselves in a situation of neglect. In the pursuit of the complete emancipation of working women and peasant women, Bolsheviks did not leave the right to choose - to devote themselves to work or to the upbringing of children.

The leaders of the communist party tried to present the domestic work and home upbringing of children as degrading feminine dignity. Kollontai (1972) called to eradicate the very system of patriarchal relations with the help of the “revolution of life”. Raising children in kindergartens and public schools — all of this had to undermine the “instincts” and “skills” of private life and destroy the foundations of a traditional family (Kollontai, 1972). Since the 1920s, consultations on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, as well as the production of abortions, have been incorporated into the free public health system.

Speaking at the IV Moscow citywide non-party conference of female workers on September 23, 1919, Lenin (1985) noted: “We are creating exemplary institutions, nursery canteens that would free a woman from the household. And here it is on women that the job of arranging all these institutions falls most of all”.

With the help of the Department of Maternity and Infancy Protection under the People's Commissariat of Health in the national regions of the RSFSR in 1926–192, a widespread propaganda of preschool education begins. Posters, leaflets (in 9 languages) and brochures (in 16 languages) on “What is a playground and how to organize it”, “What is pre-school education”, “Learn how to raise children”, etc. are issued in huge quantities. As a result, targeted socially oriented events provided an opportunity to open 125 playgrounds in 1927. Every year the number of temporary and reduced the number of stationary kindergartens.

As part of the provision of methodological assistance to preschool workers, 12 preschool methodological manuals were published. The Department of Maternity and Infancy Protection under the People's Commissariat of Health in the national regions of the RSFSR noted: “There are still many difficulties in this work: insufficient consideration of local experience, lack of planned training for pre-school institutions for national minorities. The activities of the authorities did not find an understanding of the population, especially in regions characterized by the dominance of traditional thinking. Unexpected obstacles and irreconcilable contradictions arose with the previously passive and restrained mountain women. For example, in the CBD cadets of the Leninsky school campus, mobilized in the summer period in the village for cultural education, met with stubborn resistance of rural women to the preschool education system (Tekueva, 2006).

This is explained by the fact that in a traditional society the upbringing of children under 7 years of age was assigned to a woman. She strictly followed the traditions of folk pedagogy, rightly believing that she laid the foundations of national identity and character in a child, cultivates human qualities in it, and provides social skills, behavioral stereotypes adopted in this ethnic environment. Therefore, women resisted the replacement of home education by the Soviet system of public education, which questioned her educational talent and childcare skills. Many parents were frankly afraid that children would forget their native language; they would be brought up only in Russian traditions (Guketlova & Shoranova, 2015).

Aimed at organizing nurseries, faced great difficulties, especially in those localities where there were no women's departments. But, despite the fact that at the initial stage, preschool institutions were rejected by the population, later, due to the expansion of female labor in collective farm production, the introduction of compulsory labor service, women resigned to the need to send children to state preschool institutions, and there was a shortage of gardens and nurseries.

This is not the only difficulty that women faced during the period of collectivization. In the first place it was the problem of forced work, its non-traditional gender-related nature, with the problem of hunger, and most importantly the care and care of young children during the employment of mothers in the field.

The policy of women's emancipation generated a lot of social problems that were associated with undermining the foundations of the family, moral values, changing social stereotypes and views on motherhood, including a sharp decline in the birth rate and threatened the normal reproduction of the population. This state, which is in constant expectation of war, could not afford it. In 1936, the transition to a new family policy began, which was also reflected in the legislation. A Resolution of the CEC and the Council of People's Commissars of the SSR "On the prohibition of abortion, strengthening the criminal penalty for non-payment of alimony and some changes in the law on abortion" was adopted. Practically, the practice of “free love” and “free family” was prohibited. The state took the family under its care as a “cell of society”. The official ideology formed a luminous image of the “working mother”, which simultaneously satisfies two of the most important social needs - demographic and production (non-working women were declared “backward housewives”). The state consistently controlled the birth rate (prohibiting abortion, hushing up and counter-propaganda of contraception achievements) and at the same time created certain conditions that allowed combining the roles of "mother" and "worker" in the form of public canteens, kitchen factories, kindergartens and nurseries, paid maternity leave maternity, and later child care.

However, twenty years of contraceptive freedom did their job. Women saw an alternative to the traditional strategy of freedom from “reproductive slavery”. If earlier the maternity construct included the bearing, the birth and upbringing of children (preferably not one), now he can exclude upbringing, be focused on one-child or exclude children altogether. The priority is given to self-realization in the professional sphere. The double burden of the working mother changed the collective consciousness of women. They gained new social experience that taught them to make independent decisions. Many women began to choose the male strategy of independence and freedom. Naturally, it was difficult to link up with the maternal function.

New reproductive attitudes are the result of a psychological struggle between sociocentric and egocentric values. Traditional gender notions about the reproductive role of women with a social orientation face egocentric needs expressed in the most effective ways of social self-affirmation of young people of reproductive age. We can say that such a shift towards individualism is manifestation of the crisis of gender-role identities.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, the political and economic crisis of the 1990s created the conditions for a deeper transformation of the female consciousness. Lack of confidence in the future, falling living standards, reducing the number of pre-school childcare facilities, low wages made the birth of children a social risk.

The reproductive preferences of the majority of modern women in Russia are based on the value of children, but personal reproductive experience is crucial in the behavior of women. In each case, the reproductive behavior of women is not associated with the influence of information and the availability of contraception, but with specific circumstances, which for her are more significant than the principles of law, sexual morality and gender stereotypes. Unfortunately, the advantage is on the side of career and economic well-being. Women either have an abortion or abandon children. It is rarely possible to combine two roles - specialist and mother, without prejudice to the qualitative component of the realization of social roles, as well as the physical and psychological well-being of a woman.

The philosophy of hedonism and individualism of the modern world does not contribute to the birth of children. Children began to be associated not with positive emotional experiences, but with a source of problems and a constant state of frustration. A hundred years ago, women considered the birth of children a duty, a common occurrence. Now motherhood is equal to the feat, is perceived as an irreplaceable victim.

As you know, motherhood is not a congenital construct, but a product of socialization. In most modern families, girls are oriented toward getting education and a profession. Preparation for motherhood is not the dominant direction in the process of education. Emancipated and career-oriented women were the least interested in the birth of children. Women with children do not compete in the labor market, they are perceived as inefficient workers. In the conditions of shortage of workplaces, priority is given, of course, to childlessness. The effect of double load domestic and industrial exists in all countries undergoing the modernization phase and “works” to discriminate women, limiting women's participation in professional work (Guseynova, 1999).

Thus, there is a dissonance in relation to motherhood. On the one hand, the state is trying to stimulate fertility, public morality expects women to focus on childbirth, on the other hand, a woman who decides on motherhood is deprived of professional and social status.

The study conducted by Shoranova (2012) showed the ambiguity of determining the status of women by both sexes. To the question “Who do you think modern women consider themselves first and foremost,” women answered as follows:

  • Home keeper (mother, wife) – 39,11%;

  • Independent unique personality – 51,85%;

  • Specialist– 9, 04%.

The responses of the men surveyed are different from the ones presented above, which help us to say who they want to see a woman:

  • Home keeper (mother, wife) – 67,42%;

  • Independent unique personality – 25,8%;

  • Specialist – 6, 78%.

Undoubtedly, such a big difference in the responses indicates a rather traditional perception of gender roles by men (Shoranova, 2012).

Attitude to maternity depends on a number of factors - the severity of national traditions and religious attitudes, level of education and professional status of both men and women.

The famous French demographer Pressa (2004) stated in his book “Population and its study,” that urbanization process sets its fashion for a reduced number of children in the family. In addition, urbanization impoverishes social ties, destroys traditional values. There is a threat that a woman who decides to become a mother will be left alone with her problems, without the help of relatives and social services, whose help has either a slight material equivalent or is addressed to marginal layers. According to the results of a study conducted by Smoleva (2017), the images of a large and single mother are associated among the majority of respondents with the concept of “social vulnerability”, which also affects the number of children in a family. It does not contribute to the orientation of women to motherhood and unstable marriages.

Purpose of the Study

It is necessary to find ways to increase the motivation of women to fulfill their maternal role. The way out of the crisis can be the formation of a new social orientation towards motherhood, that is, a stable predisposition towards a positive assessment of childbearing, expressed in a sequence of behavior. The important issue here is the feasibility of reproductive behavior based on the installation and taking into account the need for such an installation. New installation on motherhood, formed by a system of state, public and social and economic measures may ultimately lead to a change in the behavior of women of reproductive age. A reverse process is also possible, during which a change in the behavior of individual people in a particular region may cause a change in social attitudes. Analysis of numerous studies on the phenomenon of motherhood suggests that the modern awareness of a woman of new needs for motherhood is formed against the background of rigidity, depletion of family models maternity and variability of maternal functions. On the face of the discrepancy between the modern image of modern women and traditional models of motherhood, which is aggravated by the rupture of intergenerational ties and the loss of traditional ways of transferring the experience of mother-child interaction.

The reproductive attitude of the woman herself, which is the result of the interaction of gender and educational positions, occupies a central place in the construct of maternity. The reproductive attitude of a woman can be expressed in relation both to the ideal image of the mother in general and to herself as a mother in particular. The installation on motherhood is a consequence of the past experience of the woman and the degree of her emotional and psychological preparation for the role of the mother. Unfortunately, not always these components can have a positive and socially approved color. In recent years, deviant motherhood has become one of the most acute social problems and the subject of scientific research, both in practical and theoretical aspects. This includes problems related not only to mothers abandoning their children and showing open neglect and violence towards them, problems of disturbing maternal-child relationships, which serve as causes of a decrease in the child’s emotional well-being and deviations in his optimal mental development in the infant, early and preschool age, but a change in the attitude of women to the institution of motherhood.

It follows from this that it is necessary to form a socially desirable stereotype of a woman’s maternal behavior, expressed in reproductive orientations, thinking constructs that could become determinants of the behavior motivation of the child’s desirability. At the same time, not always the desirability of the child can guarantee the adequacy of the maternal role or internal satisfaction with the role itself. However, it is the desirability of the child that is the main prerequisite for setting up a woman for childbirth. The child’s unwanted consequences have various consequences: an increase in the percentage of terminated pregnancies; increase in the number of social orphans; the presence of such phenomena as maternal coldness, manifested in indifference and cruelty to children; increase in the number of childless marriages. Often, women focused on financial independence and career growth perceives marriage and motherhood as an unnecessary burden depriving them of their freedom, health and wealth. Women who grew up on their own in terms of maternal deprivation or deviation are not able to experience maternal love and care, provide behavior that ensures the full development of the child. Most researchers come to the conclusion that the formation of the maternal sphere in women is not evolutionary, but in vivo, filled with the values ​​of motherhood, the need for it and ways to satisfy them.

Consequently, in each cultural and historical reality a specific model of motherhood is formed, focused on the development of the corresponding specifically cultural variant of the birth and development of the child’s personality. Raising a culture of motherhood should be a necessary step towards changing the negative effects of the transformation of this phenomenon. This process will be effective only when using an integrated approach that includes state and public measures, combining traditions, family and public education measures of the culture of family values, marriage, conscious motherhood and fatherhood.

Research Methods

The phenomenon of motherhood is a rather complex construct, the study of which required the authors to use a number of research methods. First of all, a systematic approach is needed, which considers the object under study as the integrity of the set of elements in the totality of relations and connections between it. A descriptive research method serves as the basis for collecting, analyzing and systematizing the main characteristics of motherhood. Since the article considers the process of maternity transformation as a social and psychological state of women, the use of the method of historicism in the process of scientific research is quite natural. It determines the patterns of this phenomenon in historical development, in connection with the specific historical conditions of the existence of women. The involvement of the sociological method has reinforced our research with empirical materials that reflect the real state of the processes occurring in society that affect attitudes towards motherhood.


Conventionally, all women can be divided into two categories - oriented and not oriented to motherhood by virtue of their ideas about children, the mother and her role in the child's life.

Attitude to maternity, according to the study, depends on a number of factors - the severity of national traditions and religious attitudes, level of education and professional status of both men and women.

The behavior of the deprived mother reflects on the child's behavior, forms a negative, dysfunctional image of his self-perception and self-identity. In children of such mothers there is a lag in development, a violation of the process of accumulation of primary social experience necessary for psycho-emotional development. Unfortunately, in such cases, the mother ceases to be a source of positive emotions and security.

Transformation of traditional gender roles, including maternity, can lead to acute family crises. The modern model of the Russian family is focused on the hyperprotective role of the woman: she dominates the family and takes responsibility for it. Dominance extends to the formation of the values ​​of the child, determining the nature of his beliefs, types and forms of behavior.


Women who are oriented and not oriented towards motherhood have different ideas about the mother and her role. For women aimed at motherhood, there is an image of a receptive, responsive mother who promotes development and learning a child sharing his self-worth. In women, not aimed at motherhood, the overvalued child and the inexpressiveness of such qualities as acceptance, responsiveness and desire for the development of the child are clearly visible.

The motives for the preservation of pregnancy mainly depend on the personal attitudes of the woman and the social standards of society, determined by the cultural and historical time in which she lives.

The analysis of theoretical literature suggests that mother-oriented women embody the image of a receptive, responsive mother who promotes the development and training of the child, dividing his independent value. Such women are more often mentally balanced, productive in their actions, able to take into account the individuality of the child and apply democratic methods of education.

For women, not aimed at motherhood, there are no such qualities as acceptance, responsiveness and desire for the development of the child. The motives for the preservation of pregnancy mainly depend on their personal attitudes, which are formed under the influence of the social norms of society, determined by the cultural and historical time in which it lives. Reproductively unfocused women are more often restless, depressed, and prone to depression and fear. Such an unstable psycho-emotional state in the presence of a child can be expressed in hyper-care and excessive control, restriction of the interests of the child, a sense of sacrifice.

Changes that occur at the level of gender identity of women become social conditions for the formation of new positions of the reproductive role. Gender instability, transformation of models of sex roles are an objective prerequisite to reduce the need for children and deconstruct reproductive norms of the social environment. A change in the reproductive attitude of a modern woman is determined by the objective content of social changes affecting the gender-role identity of women, which is associated with the reproductive role as a mechanism for its regulation.

It can be argued that the construct of motherhood of modern women has been significantly transformed under the influence of political, economic, and social and cultural processes. The role of a mother ceased to be prestigious and unconditional and was the result of an internal referendum of each woman. If the state sets itself the goal of regaining the former prestige of the mother’s role, it is necessary to recognize changes in the minds of women, reconsider social policies, and offer women more comfortable conditions for exercising their reproductive rights. It should allow them not to choose between professional activities and the birth of children. It is possible to give mothers a higher state content, since not uncommon, when the decline in the standard of living is associated precisely with the birth of children.

Traditionalists are proposing to “return a woman to the family,” which will certainly play a positive role in the socialization of children. The terms of "return" must be well thought out. A woman should feel herself needed by the society; the state should raise the prestige of housewives, recognizing their work as socially useful. Women mothers should be protected from poverty, violence and oppression. It depends on the state whether the opportunities of women in connection with motherhood will open or close.


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28 December 2019

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Makoeva, Z., Vindizheva, А., Kushkhova, А., Shoranova, Z., & Guketlova*, L. (2019). Maternity Construct Transformation: Reasons And Factors. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 3506-3514). Future Academy.