Emotion and Identity in the Transition to Parenthood
Though families come in all shapes and sizes, many people recognize the birth of their first child as the start of their new family. The transition to parenthood that expectant parents experience has important implications for their future health and the health of their children. This dissertation investigates the experiences of new and expectant parents as they develop their new roles. The findings draw on publicly-available conversations from parenting forums. Investigative phenomenology, descriptive phenomenology, and quantitative analysis are used to explore three research questions: 1) How do people experience perinatal loss? 2) What are parents’ experiences of working with nurses when their infant is in a neonatal critical care unit? 3) What emotions do men experience on their journey to fatherhood? The findings of this dissertation indicate that the transition to parenthood is a time of ambiguity, stress, and potentially, great joy for new parents. During this transition, people take on new identities, perform new roles, experience a broad range of emotions, and develop new relationships. The impacts of this transition are lifelong, so support is vital to promoting the formation of healthy, well-adjusted families. For healthcare providers and researchers, there is a great deal that can be done to help new and expectant parents feel supported and respected. A few of the many potential tools providers and researchers can use include mindfulness, non-judgement, and therapeutic communication.
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