The Experience of Stress and Support Amongst First Time Mothers.

Croghan, Rosaleen Anne (1992). The Experience of Stress and Support Amongst First Time Mothers. PhD thesis The Open University.



The research aim was to examine the experience of stress and support in mothering, to place that experience in its social and relational context and to examine the way in which such experiences are interpreted. In order to do this the study drew on the accounts of 25 first time mothers from a range of social and relational circumstances. Of these, 15 came from relatively stable backgrounds, and 10 from ‘disrupted’ backgrounds, (having spent at least 3 years in residential care before the age of 16). These 2 groups of mothers were chosen because they were likely to have very different experiences of maternal stress and of social support.

The research draws primarily on mothers’ accounts in order to understand the way in which they make sense of their experience of stress and support. A time use diary was also used as a way of measuring the contribution of members of mother’s support networks. The analysis focused on the interaction between features in the mothers’ social and economic context, the relationships which surround them and dominant discourses of maternal behaviour and of gender roles, all of which were seen as likely define both the extent of maternal stress and mothers’ interpretations of both stress and support. The research also looked at the role of professional intervention in defining the parameters of maternal responsibility and in relieving parental stress, and at the differences between professional and maternal perspectives on stress and support.

The analysis moved from treating the notions of stress and support as relatively discrete and quantifiable variables towards seeing these as intimately bound up with the ways in which they are constructed in response to the social and ideological context in which they occur.

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