As a head nurse in pediatrics and staff nurse in intrapartum, postpartum, and newborn
nursery units, Ramona Mercer had a great deal of experience in nursing care for mothers
and infants. This gave her a strong foundation for creating her Maternal Role Attainment
Theory for nursing.
The Maternal Role Attainment Theory was developed to serve as a framework for nurses
to provide appropriate health care interventions for nontraditional mothers in order
for them to develop a strong maternal identity. This mid-range theory can be used
throughout pregnancy and postnatal care, but is also beneficial for adoptive or foster
mothers, or others who find themselves in the maternal role unexpectedly. The process
used in this nursing model helps the mother develop an attachment to the infant, which
in turn helps the infant form a bond with the mother. This helps develop the mother-child
relationship as the infant grows.
The primary concept of this theory is the developmental and interactional process,
which occurs over a period of time. In the process, the mother bonds with the infant,
acquires competence in general caretaking tasks, and then comes to express joy and
pleasure in her role as a mother.
The nursing process in the Maternal Role Attainment Theory follows four stages of
acquisition. They are: anticipatory, formal, informal, and personal. The anticipatory
stage is the social and psychological adaptation to the maternal role. This includes
learning expectations and can involve fantasizing about the role. The formal stage is
the assumption of the maternal role at birth. In this stage, behaviors are guided by
others in the mother's social system or network, and relying on the advice of others
in making decisions. The informal stage is when the mother develops her own methods of
mothering which are not conveyed by a social system. She finds what works for her and
the child. The personal stage is the joy of motherhood. In this stage, the mother finds
harmony, confidence, and competence in the maternal role. In some cases, she may find
herself ready for or looking forward to another child.