A longitudinal study of pregnancy and the early transition to parenthood

MPhil Thesis


Simpson, Ursula Fidelma 1996. A longitudinal study of pregnancy and the early transition to parenthood. MPhil Thesis University of East London Psychology Department
AuthorsSimpson, Ursula Fidelma
TypeMPhil Thesis
Abstract

Previous research on the transition to motherhood suggests that women's adjustment may be
affected by a number of factors related to their characteristics and experiences. The present study
examined the impact of physical and emotional health, social support, age, ethnicity, whether
pregnancy was planned and (postnatally) infant behaviour and temperament on women's
adjustment from late pregnancy to six months after childbirth. Cross sectional and longitudinal
designs and analyses were used (i) to examine associations between the above measures and their
effects on adjustment at each of three phases - pregnancy, childbirth and the first six months of
motherhood and (ii) to evaluate continuity or discontinuity in such effects from one phase to
subsequent ones. The first research contact was during the third trimester of pregnancy when a
sample of 42 working-class, primiparous women of different ethnic backgrounds and in the age
group 16-28 were recruited to the study, and they were followed up at two subsequent time-points -
2 - 3 days after childbirth and at 5 - 6 months after delivery. Data were collected by means of
structured interviews, standardised questionnaires and an observation schedule (of mother/infant
interaction). Correlational analyses were used to determine statistical associations between the
factors examined. Also, in the interests of understanding the transition to motherhood from the
women's perspective, a number of individual case studies were examined in detail.
Findings indicate that women's health and partner support were positively associated with
adjustment measures at some but not all phases of transition; women's age and ethnicity were
not significantly associated with adjustment at any time-point; infant temperament was positively
associated with postnatal health and negatively with measures of family and professional support
but not with overall postnatal adjustment. Longitudinally, there was continuity in women's
emotional health and in partner support from pregnancy to six months postpartum, but no
continuity was found in their influences on adjustment. Planned pregnancy, however, was
shown to have a positive impact on adjustment at all three time-points. The case studies
suggest that, from a woman-centred point of view, there are substantial differences in the ways in
which women experience and adjust to the transition to motherhood. Results and methods used
are considered and compared to other research, and ideas for further study are presented

KeywordsTransition to motherhood; Physical and emotional health; Pregnancy
Year1996
Publication dates
PrintNov 1996
Publication process dates
Deposited22 Apr 2014
Additional information

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