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An interpretative phenomenological analysis of mothers' negative experiences and emotions during early motherhood

Collins, Sharon J.

An interpretative phenomenological analysis of mothers' negative experiences and emotions during early motherhood Thumbnail


Sharon J. Collins


Contemporary ideologies surrounding motherhood do not appear to reflect the experience for many women. Motherhood is often portrayed as idealised, romanticised and as a joyful experience however a large proportion of women do not find this and experience psychological distress, many receiving a diagnosis of postnatal depression. Current psychiatric systems may not adequately represent mothers’ experiences or reflect the range and complexity of emotions experienced during the early stages of motherhood. In addition, most psychological research has explored mothers’ emotions through the lens of a medical model, with a focus on depression; exploration of emotions, beyond depression, has been under-researched. This study aimed to explore the range of emotions mothers experience. A qualitative study of six women, who experienced distress postnatally, were interviewed using semi-structured interviews to ascertain their subjectively lived experience. Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The study found an emotional conflict between the mothers’ aspired and idyllic representations of motherhood and their lived experiences; three themes were identified: when idyllic notions of motherhood are not realised; when motherhood is not instinctive; and when prioritising childcare is not easy. When the mothers were unable to live up to these identified notions of motherhood, they experienced emotional distress, from resentment and guilt, to feeling broken and insecure. The amalgamation of emotions experienced created a landscape of emotional complexity the mothers had to negotiate. This study also found that these women’s experiences were not represented in the psychiatric categorical systems; they did not identify with having postnatal depression in the early stages of motherhood and were therefore left unsupported. This study explored ways counselling psychologists may be able to offer support to this sub-clinical group of women through interventions and by viewing their experiences as a normal response to motherhood as opposed to pathologising them.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 31, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 31, 2019
Keywords motherhood, distress, emotions, postnatal, ideologies, pathologise, IPA
Public URL
Contract Date Jan 31, 2019
Award Date Jan 31, 2019


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