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An exploration of men's experiences of depression during the postnatal period: An IPA study

Pascoe, Sandra M

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Sandra M Pascoe


Postnatal Depression (PND) is a construct that exists across time and culture, affecting both women and men at a ratio of 2:1 respectively. The dominant discourse focuses on women’s experiences of PND and the motherinfant relationship, presented within the framework of an overarching biomedical model that produced a plethora of studies underpinned by the positivist paradigm. In contrast, this research seeks to explore what it actually means for men, as fathers, to experience depression during the postnatal period. The literature to date highlights a threefold gap regarding approach to research into the phenomenon of PND: the epistemological underpinning, the methodological approaches chosen and the gender bias. To address this gap it is necessary for a paradigm shift regarding approach to research to embrace further qualitative methodology. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis is the methodology identified for this research, as it provides the medium for consideration of the phenomenological and idiographic nature of the experience of PND, to include the role of the researcher and interpretation that reflects the central tenet of reflexivity within the discipline of Counselling Psychology. The overall gestalt presents a transitional adjustment process whereby the life event of the birth of a child initiated a process of deconstruction in preparation for adjusting to a new role within a changed family dynamic. The data revealed three super-ordinate and six sub-ordinate themes highlighting a complexity regarding how men made sense of their experience of depression during the postnatal period, including contemplation of past, present and possible future selves. Negative cognitive appraisal and attribution of meaning relating to childhood experiences, negative perceptions of fatherhood, masculinities, gender roles, the fatherchild relationship and socio-cultural contextual influences blocked the reconstructive process, resulting in increased stress and anxiety that led to depression. This study draws attention to risk factors, such as, childhood trauma, negative inter-generational relationships and differences in gendered expression of cognitive dissonance and anxiety. Conclusions consider implications for Counselling Psychology, highlighting the complex inter-subjective nature of men’s experiences and the value of an inter-disciplinary approach to future research, healthcare practice and intervention strategies to develop appropriate care and support for parents, particularly for men during the perinatal period.


Pascoe, S. M. An exploration of men's experiences of depression during the postnatal period: An IPA study. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date Apr 30, 2020
Keywords fathers, masculinity, depression, postnatal, gender difference, gender role conflict
Public URL
Award Date Jan 1, 2014


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