A Narrative Study of First-Time Parenthood in the Information Age

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Suter, Sarah (2015)

Background: The subjective lived experience of early first-time parenthood remains an under-researched area. The literature highlights a need for storied experiences that portray the “normal” experiences and reactions of becoming and being a parent.\ud Objective: The purpose of this narrative study was to capture how a parent’s interactions with their family, the wider society, media and cyberspace shape their understanding of early parenthood. \ud Method: A narrative framework embedded in a social constructionist epistemology was adopted. Participants’ narratives were obtained either through face-to-face interviews or via email correspondence. \ud Participants: Six mothers chose to share their powerful and candid stories about first-time parenthood. The research involved a considerable amount of self-selection. Consequently, all participants were female, partnered, and the mothers chose to have a baby. The participants described themselves as White British or White Eastern European. The babies’ age range was between three months and 17 months. \ud Findings: Each story was treated as a case study and findings are presented in summary and story form. The journey to making motherhood their own appears to be the thread that runs through each narrative. The thread seems to portray a transition from idealised motherhood to de-mythologised, meaningful, lived experience. Overall, the experience of urban first-time parenthood has been constructed in a positive light.\ud Conclusions: The narratives highlight the pervasive and powerful influence of both cyberspace and social scripts about what a “good mother” does. Early parenthood is a critical time for professionals to engage with first-time parents to normalise their experiences and to provide reassurance and support. The participants’ narratives underscore the need for strengthening first-time parents’ sense of competence. They also suggest a unique opportunity for Perinatal Parent-Infant Services to offer virtual support by creating a psychologically-informed, compassionate website about becoming and being a parent to an infant.
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