Teenage Pregnancy: The Interaction of Psyche and Culture by Anne L. Dean, Ph.D.

Analytic Press

Several things converged for Dr. Anne Dean when she decided to write Teenage Pregnancy. “I got tired of being holed up in my windowless office at UNO writing articles about Piaget and the development of mental imagery,” she said. “After ten years of doing this, I, and I think the field of developmental psychology, both agreed that enough was enough.”

Then Anne learned “participant observation’ or ‘ethnographic’ field method with the help of Dr. Martha Ward, an anthropologist at UNO, which opened up new ways of study for her. With the help of Henry Reiff, one of her students, she connected with a rural community of African-Americans who had “lived on the ‘backplace’ of a sugar plantation” for generations. Anne and Henry approached the community, offering tutoring for the children in exchange for being able to observe how the children learned right from wrong. But after a few months and many discussions over meals at a local po-boy shop called “Fat Daddy’s,” Anne and Henry realized that the most important concern to the women in this community was teenage pregnancy.

“Over and over we heard stories of how they had become pregnant as teenagers…how these pregnancies and births had affected their lives–they said for the worse, but there was usually a subtext of more positive feelings about these developments. We also realized that the focus of almost all of the stories we heard was not the teen’s relationship with the baby’s father, but the relationship between the teenage girl and her mother. This relationship, in the end, became the main focus of the book.”

Being a “number researcher at heart,” Anne eventually applied for and won a large grant from NIH to continue the work. With the help of two other graduate students, Mindy Malik and Sarah Ducey, she began looking at the dynamics in the attachment relationship between the teenagers and their mothers, comparing those teens who had become pregnant with those who had not.

Teenage Pregnancy is a smoothly written, readable and compelling study, complete with excerpts and theoretical discourse about women’s lives in the rural South. Peter Fonagy, Ph.D., University of London writes, “This is an important and fascinating book… The rigorous methodology does not in the slightest obscure the interpersonal and intrapsychic struggles the young women face. Dean’s clinically meaningful application of attachment theory concepts and methods sets new standards for the field. In sum, Teenage Pregnancy is a unique study that stands without peer in this complex and difficult field.”

When asked about the writer’s life, Anne told PT that she learned a lot in the course of getting her book published. “I learned that I can write well on subjects about which I am passionate,” she said. “Several reviewers and editors commented on this, to my surprise, for my high school English teachers had always conveyed the opposite opinion.”

She added, “I learned after the fact that a surefire way of losing the attention of readers is to try to cram everything I know or have ever thought into one small space using language that even I have difficulty understanding.”

Getting published was not without its frustrations. Her book was nearly to press when Lawrence Erlbaum invited a well-known African-American sociologist to write a preface. However, because the sociologist felt that white researchers could never understand African-American psyches or culture, the publisher reneged on the contract, surprising both Anne and the publisher’s own editors. Fortunately, Analytic Press immediately took over the book. “This was a frustrating experience,” Anne said, “but in the end, I think I learned many useful things about myself and the writing world in the process.”

Anne is currently working on her new book, Tragic Irish Heroes. After retiring from UNO and going into full-time practice, Anne realized she wanted something new to write about. Her husband, also practicing psychiatry and psychoanalysis, was ‘also game for a sabbatical.’ So, the couple spent six months in Northern Ireland studying conflict from a group dynamics perspective.

In her new work, Anne tells the stories of nine, dead, tragic heroes (Brian Boru, Roderick O’Connor, Hugh “the Great” O’Neill, Owen Roe O’Neill, Patrick Sarsfield, Wolfe Tone, Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, and Michael Collins) with an underlying psychoanalytic theme. “But this is a theme that remains latent,” she explained, “with nary a word spoken or written out loud in psychoanalytic language. I am struggling to write in a style that will appeal to a much wider audience, trying to forget everything I knew about writing articles for psychology journals.”

She said, “My latent thesis is that the psyche of the current Irish hero in Northern Ireland, Gerry Adams, M.P., consists in large measure of identifications with this pantheon of dead tragic Irish heroes — identifications that I believe have manifested themselves in various ways during his lifetime, and that the best way for Adams to avoid another tragic outcome is through awareness of these identifications. Thus, the book is written both for and about Adams.”

Dr. Anne Dean, a native New Orleanian, now lives in Eugene, Oregon, near her daughter, son-in-law, and one-year old granddaughter. Licensed in Louisiana and Oregon, she devotes most of her time to writing, playing tennis, training for walking marathons, baby-sitting, and taking singing Dr. Anne Dean and granddaughter Sydney, relaxing. lessons. She makes frequent visits to N.O. to see friends, relatives and former colleagues. She graduated from Wellesley College, George Washington U., with her doctorate from Catholic University in D.C. She graduated from the New Orleans Psychoanalytic Institute in ’96.

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