Celia Brandão, Psicóloga


The roles in the family and Pregnancy in adolescence

This report is about a volunteer work, a partnership between Family guidance Institute in Brazil, Sao Paulo, Ceaf , and a Pediatric clinic in a deprived children community in Sao Paulo.

A survey done at middle class and low middle class schools in Sao Paulo confirms that we are living in a time of transition of the images of father and mother in the family (1)

The adolescents attribute the authority equally to father and mother.

The adolescents identify mother as protection, support and affective reference. Only a few see her as financial provider and those are among the group of less acquisitive power.

The mother figure is identified as family reference.

To give physical and emotional support and to educate seems to be a mother function among the classes with a lower socio-economic level. Some adolescents replied that … “The child is brought up very well without a father”.

As we know the absence of a father figure is common in the case reports of juvenile delinquency. A lack of a model of reference also is missing in the case reports of problems in learning and school adaptation, in elementary education.

The case reports about the family of homeless children and adolescents show a complete absence of a father figure in the description of their roles and in their imagery. It seems that is in this question: (What should be his function), that the families with lower socio-economic level show a higher emptiness.”

The mother is identified with the whole image of family, of protecting physically and emotionally and educating, so this points to a model of single parenting and motherliness of family.

A more complex issue is that when we think about the perspective of working with this impoverished family. We are faced with a certain degree of institutional prepotency because these families are considered not workable with and the professional role would be the referral of these children and adolescents to educational and assistance institutions.


Our practice in our work with these homeless children, with victims of abuse and with pregnancy in adolescence show that the child doesn’t necessarily reproduces and not even in a direct way the forms of behaving of his family.

The adults trace some forms of behaving and possible representations but the child mold his way of behaving based on the interdependent relationships and reacts individually and creatively.

In according to Mara Sidoli, we share a certain ontological collectivity but each individual has his on way to respond to his experience. (7)

This reality shows the necessity of actions in the direction of these children and adolescents imaginary as a way of reaching their social inclusion.


Reflections about pregnancy during adolescence

There have been, in all social classes a great increase of the index of pregnancy during adolescence.

Research of Dr Albertina Duarte, gynecologist shows that 87 % of the cases had information about the use of contraceptives.

To have the information and to incorporate it as a way of life means a long run.

There are various hypotheses about the factors the cause pregnancy during adolescence:

1- outburst of sexuality

2- aderence to the group values related with liberty and sexuality.

3- imediaticity of adolescent behavior.

4– adolescent’s feeling of omnipotence.

5- sexual initiation turned to be more precocious since sexual liberation of the 60’s.

6- the erotism vehiculated through media without orientation proposes a practice without responsibility.

7- antecipation of the girl’s maturation due to better conditions of life and nutrition in the last decades. Menarca and puberty occur earlier and one or two years latter girls reach full fertility. (4 )

The follow up of pregnant adolescents made possible a reflection about these families reality and about the environment in which these adolescents live. It shows a particular ecology, in which the family of the adolescent-mother has the role of formation of the new members.

There is an increase of the number of grandmothers that raise and take care of their grandchildren. The figure of the grandfather is almost inexpressive in the reports.

The children of the first pregnancy are given to the grandmother care when the adolescent has no stable partner or has a new relationship. This is also a way of keeping with the morality in the absence of a stable partner or of maintaining the presence of a presumed provider.

Almost there is no clarity about the role of the stable partner, besides the role of sexual partner and no affective reference.

She is precociously invited to discriminate her behavior in the mother role while she has a discourse of a daughter that almost all the time lacked the assistance of her necessities from the mother, father and substitutive figures.

The experience of being neglect and the maternal abandonment evokes and foster grandiose fantasies and infantile omnipotence as defenses of helplessness and dread. This kind of experiences also damages the development of symbolic thinking. We try to work through these damages and disturbs of attachment.

… “When she will be born, she will be the only one that will be happy.” – words of a pregnant adolescent in reference to the baby that will be born … her daughter.

The family’s reaction to the precocious pregnancy goes from aggression, permissive apathy until super protection that deprives the adolescent from responsibility and necessary containment to deal with the impasse. The challenge is to create new locus in the life of the adolescent-mother to mourn all the things she will lose with the condition of precocious maternity, to work through for one part the idealizations and for the other the despair in order to have new projects in her life.

According to Fordham in relation to the defenses of the self we must work through both dependency and loss in the context of indestructibility, except by death, of the self.

The adolescent mother assumes heroic behavior trying to preserve the tenuous attachment with the maternal object, creating omnipotent defense mechanism against helplessness.

We are living in a time of transition of the roles within the family that is more difficult to deal with if the experience in the nuclear family was marked by mistreatment, abuse and inequality.

The pregnant adolescents reveal in their fantasies the search of a new family model, trying to remake the hero’s trajectory that goes on in the task of mediator of the different levels, of the differences, and of rescue themselves.

They will have to face their fears of body deformation, of baby ill formation, of death, abandonment, hunger, pain, that exist in their speech.

In their communications there are abandoned children, divine or not, that search in their way to rescue themselves.

A dialogue :

Psychologist: _ “What kind of changes pregnancy make in the adolescent’s life?”

Adolescent 1 “It changes the vanity, we have to be more responsible, we have no more right to do what we did before, and some women also give up the care of themselves to take care of their child.”

Adolescent 2 “We don’t have the same liberty as before and also the adolescent suffers from maturity.”

Adolescent 3 “It changes a lot because she will have to stop studying to work.”

The hero has to bend towards himself; he has to suffer to understand. Would it be this kind of struggle they cast themselves when they forget to use the contraceptive?

All the heroes have a tragic death. But this death brings with it the benefit of the humanization of a dimension of the culture.

To cast herself in this kind of event that determine the precocious death of adolescence would have at its target to heal the wound of the daughter, of this experience of abandon, internal chaos and the lack of affect.

The relationship, the internal dialogue with the child that will be born reveals de psychic deficiencies of the adolescent girl and her family and at the same time reveals her desire of inclusion and the desire of an individual project.

-“My mother says that my pregnancy will set me apart from her.”

They have to look to the mirror through their baby and search their truth and that of their families .Her mother can’t give her the support she deserves.

She goes forward, in the direction of the moment of the labor, trying to free themselves, her and her families , from the maternal/ parental frustrations by means of a cathartic scalpel.

This is the way by which they describe their fantasies about the labor: a time of pain, helplessness and a threat of death. They plunge in a heroic way into their deprivation.

“The epiphany of the hero shows itself in a corresponding inflation: the colossal pretension grows into a conviction that one is someone extraordinary, or else the impossibility of the pretension ever being fulfilled only proves one’s own inferiority, witch is favorable to the role of the heroic sufferer.’’ says Kerenyi .

Some sentences of the adolescents:

“If he didn’t want this way we did something worse” talking about the authoritarian father that didn’t allow her dating”(M. –17 years old that got pregnant and moved out to live with her boyfriend).

“She thinks that what happened to her when she was adolescent It has to happen to me also.”( A. 17 years old )

She, physically abused by her mother, till she was 15, and latter beaten by her brother. When she got pregnant she was dating for sixth months, though she knows about and uses preservatives. She doesn’t know what happened. She moved out from home to live with the boyfriend that has been arrested due too drug traffic (22 years old). She tells that the grandmother physically abused her mother. The mother and the stepfather are alcoholic.

The father figure emerges as representative of the patriarchal power in its negative aspects, the father is a terrible figure and there is no paternal protection in almost all the narratives.

When the adolescent mother was abandoned by her husband, or victimized by her condition of inequality and the discrimination of gender and age become abusive since she feels in the right of using the authoritarian power due to their own victimization.

In some reports there is evidence of a romantic ideal that sustain the negation of difficulties and have the situation of abandon in which the adolescent is.

“…. I don’t feel anger of him (the boyfriend), I love him! He went to Bahia but he is coming back! My sister helps me.” (G.15 years old – 5 months pregnancy was abandoned by her boyfriend when he knew she was pregnant).

The child still belongs to the mother. The adolescent mother links the paternal power to the fact that her partner should be living with her, maintaining the affective relationship. She questions and denies his right to be the father if they are apart. The romantic ideal alternates with the feeling of abandon and with the fear of the destructive aspect of the relation. The fear of dependency, of submission, of loss of liberty, of the different kinds of abuse attributed to the intimacy of a stable relationship is all present. They dream of economic independency, of autonomy but they also dream about the affective support that they associate with the condition of dependency.

The sexuality as pleasure and search of identity now is associated with loss and responsibility.

“When a pregnancy happens during adolescence many things change in her life; such as responsibility, maturity, and many times she has to give up studying to work. So everything changes, it is a transformation of body and mind.” (F.18 years)

What are seeking the pregnant adolescents?

Are we facing a new ecology in the family where the woman is not only identified to the roles of daughter or mother, responsible of the primary education and accompanying or encouraging man’s development?

A new family where to educate and to provide are not more conceived as a natural attribute of each one of the sexes but responsibility of the couple and of the children that participate in the law construction?

Many children are being rejected at birth because of their gender, color,

ill-formation or other expectations , by their parents .

The omnipotent task conferred to the family in the XX century of integral care of their members face the isolation generated by the appearance of the big cities, megalopolis, must now return to the collective consciousness and though the community as a whole.

The demand made to the family now, speaks for the necessity of new patterns of relationship, a new affectivity, a new sense of solidarity. The right of the infant to be himself or herself must be kept since his birth and not violated.

The family of the transition of the new millennium, proceeds with the transformation of affectivity, sharing the task of socialization of its members with other social segments, an opening and a sight toward the collective consciousness, to the other, in order to interweave a new net of relations that include differences with more symmetry.

A new connection between power and love.

The possibility of being influenced shows our power and our strength, according to Deleuze ( 3)

References :

1-Áries, Philippe . Historia Social da Criança e da Família .Rio de Janeiro, Ed.Zahar 1978.
2-Astor, James . Michael Fordham – Innovations in analytical Psychology. Cornwall, TJ Press, 1995
3- Deleuze. G. Foucault. 2 a ed. São Paulo , Brasiliense ,1991.
4- Duarte K. Albertina . Contribuição ao estudo de um modelo de atendimento ao Adolescente -FMUSP- Phd thesis – São Paulo-1997.
5- Duarte K. Albertina – Gravidez na adolescência. Ai como sofri por te amar. Rio de Janeiro, Editora Artes & contos , 1996.
6- Jung G.C. & Kerenyi, K . Science of mythology. London – Ark edition. 1985.
7- Sidoli, Mara. When the body speaks – The archetypes in the body. London, edited by Phillis Blakemore, 2000.