Reconstructing selves: an analysis of discrepancies between women's contemporaneous and retrospective accounts of the transition to motherhood

Br J Psychol. 1994 Aug:85 ( Pt 3):371-92. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1994.tb02530.x.


This paper empirically examines the notion of self-reconstruction. Accounts of personal identity were obtained from women at four time points during the transition to motherhood. The study compares the women's accounts of pregnancy recorded in real-time with those obtained retrospectively--after the child's birth, and looks for discrepancies between them. The women's retrospective records of pregnancy point to a number of reconstructive narratives: glossing over difficulties, emphasizing personal growth, highlighting continuity of self, sometimes combining different narratives within the same retrospective report. The findings are theorized in terms of the notion of self-reconstruction, whereby it is argued individuals modify their biographical presentations in order to produce self-enhancing personal accounts. It is suggested that cognitive, motivational and rhetorical factors all play a part in this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Pregnancy / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self Concept