Absent or Ambivalent Mothers and Avoidant Children – An Evolutionary Reading of Zhang Kangkang’s Motherhood Stories
This evolutionary reading of the Chinese writer Zhang Kangkang’s maternal stories
explores the specificities and agency of mothers and of children. The dilemma
confronted by physically absent and/or emotionally detached mothers, depicted in
Zhang’s stories, entails women’s strategic intelligence to make tradeoffs between their
reproductive efforts and their life stage and conditions. It sheds light on conditional
maternal commitment, the necessity and feasibility of cooperative childrearing, and
various mother–child conflicts.
Zhang’s texts also describe insecurely attached infants and children who sink into a
nonchalant and avoidant state after experiencing distress, terror, or resentment due to
insensitive and unpredictable mothering. Absent and ambivalent mothers are generally
harassed by the feeling of guilt, resulting from conditional maternal commitment,
mother-child conflicts, and the high expectations of the motherhood myth. Children’s
counterstrategies also regulate and enhance maternal or alloparental care.