Identity and the new mother

2006 2006

Other formats: Order a copy

Abstract (summary)

This study explores the effect of motherhood on new mothers. Until recently observations were made about mothers in consequence to observations made about their infants who were the primary focus of research rather than the mothers. In this study new mothers were interviewed directly several times between their third trimester and 6 months postpartum. There were 17 new mothers who volunteered for this study. All were first time mothers, educated at the college level, many had master degrees and a few had their doctorates, and prior to motherhood all had been actively involved in either academic or professional pursuits.

Grounded Theory methodology was utilized to analyze the data and formulate the results. The question investigated was, "What does a new mother come to know about herself as she transitions into motherhood?" The research found that in this early period of transition an experience defined as incubated idealism presented among these new mothers. Incubated idealism is characterized as the new mother's hope to provide an ideal environment that will enable, and facilitate the health and wellbeing of their newborn. Additionally, incubated idealism is about the new mother's hope for herself that she will be an ideal role model for her newborn. Within this period of incubated idealism these new mothers came to have a deeper understanding about their self-identity.

One discovery revealed how these new mothers approached motherhood with the explicit intention of maintaining some semblance of their pre-motherhood identities. They wanted to create their own sense of feminism, which reflected an integration of her previous identity with her new maternal identity.

Secondly, once these new mothers gave birth and began to care for their newborns they were suddenly confronted with a broadened sense of their self-worth.

Thirdly, as these new mothers found themselves emotionally affected by their newborn's emotional states they became curious about the nature and origin of their emotions. Consequently, an internal dialogue was invigorated.

Fourthly, an overwhelming preoccupation for these new mothers, which was further processed in each interview, was their coming to terms with their preeminent responsibility for another human being. This deepened sense of responsibility causes these new mothers to think about who and what have influenced their sense of self throughout their life. These identifications and experiences are pondered and at times reworked in light of these new mothers placing themselves in the position of being a role model for their children. The feminine ego ideal is a useful structure from which we can understand how these mothers have internalized and processed a maternal ideal.

Indexing (details)

Social work;
Families & family life;
Personal relationships;
Womens studies;
Developmental psychology
0452: Social work
0628: Families & family life
0628: Personal relationships
0628: Sociology
0453: Womens studies
0620: Developmental psychology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Psychology; Identity; Incubated idealism; Motherhood; New mother
Identity and the new mother
Blackburn, Noel
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 67/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Shelby, Dennis
Institute for Clinical Social Work (Chicago)
University location
United States -- Illinois
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
Access the complete full text

You can get the full text of this document if it is part of your institution's ProQuest subscription.

Try one of the following:

  • Connect to ProQuest through your library network and search for the document from there.
  • Request the document from your library.
  • Go to the ProQuest login page and enter a ProQuest or My Research username / password.