The transformation of a woman's sense of self after the birth of her first child

2007 2007

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Abstract (summary)

This qualitative study explored the ways career-oriented, first-time mothers adjust to pregnancy and the first weeks of motherhood. The purpose of this study was as follows: (1) to highlight gaps in the existing literature regarding the adjustment to pregnancy and parenthood for women who have been involved in their career; (2) to discern important issues regarding this phenomenon to enlighten clinical practice and provide more realistic images of motherhood; (3) to describe pertinent themes in order to suggest areas for future research regarding pregnancy and motherhood for women involved in their careers.

The participants included 15 women between the ages of 30 and 40 who described themselves as being very involved in their careers and who were pregnant with their first child. Data was collected through an in-depth, semi-structured interview that was conducted with each subject six to eight weeks postpartum. The interview was designed to elicit information regarding the women’s thoughts about work, the impact of pregnancy, labor, and new motherhood on their sense of self, and changes in their relationship with their husbands. The data was analyzed using methodology based on grounded theory. Major themes regarding the balance of work and family lives were extrapolated from the data. These themes were organized around specific domains having to do with the physical and emotional aspects of the transition to motherhood. These themes pointed to two main hypotheses. These hypotheses were as follows: (1) clinical practice based on antiquated psychoanalytic theory regarding motherhood might undermine clinical success and contribute to women’s feelings of guilt regarding the balance between work and family life; (2) the experience of infertility, pregnancy loss, or death in the immediate family might allow women to be more open to change after the birth of their first child than women who have not experienced such losses. The small sample size and narrow criteria for participants prevents the meaningful application of these hypotheses to the broader population. However, this research point out possible gaps in the literature regarding motherhood and suggests areas for future research.

Indexing (details)

Womens studies;
0453: Womens studies
0622: Psychotherapy
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Psychology; Birth; Child; Motherhood; Pregnancy; Sense of self; Women; Working mothers
The transformation of a woman's sense of self after the birth of her first child
Cooper, Hilary Weiss
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 68/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Fraenkel, Peter
City University of New York
University location
United States -- New York
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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