Adjustment in the First Year Postpartum Among Young Australian First-Time Mothers: Women's experiences, mental health and wellbeing

Miss Kate Mulherin (). Adjustment in the First Year Postpartum Among Young Australian First-Time Mothers: Women's experiences, mental health and wellbeing Professional Doctorate, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Miss Kate Mulherin
Thesis Title Adjustment in the First Year Postpartum Among Young Australian First-Time Mothers: Women's experiences, mental health and wellbeing
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Thesis type Professional Doctorate
Supervisor Dr Melissa Johnstone
Total pages 210
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
Abstract/Summary The transition to motherhood is associated with diverse outcomes for women with regard to their mental health and wellbeing. Studies have demonstrated that a higher percentage of younger mothers experience clinically significant depression symptoms in the first year postpartum compared to their adult counterparts (Lanzi, Bert, Jacobs, & Centers for the Prevention of Child Neglect, 2009; Yelland, Sutherland, & Brown, 2010). However, qualitative research has also highlighted the diversity and complexity of younger women’s adjustment to motherhood, with findings from a number of studies revealing that motherhood can be a positive experience for younger women, associated with wellbeing and positive life changes (e.g., Seibold, 2004). Thus, there is a need to expand the way adjustment to motherhood among younger women is conceptualised and investigated. Researchers have argued for a need to focus more broadly on postnatal distress (beyond just depression), which encompasses depression, anxiety and stress symptoms (Miller, Pallant, & Negri, 2006). Additionally, more quantitative investigation of younger, first-time mothers’ experiences of flourishing and wellbeing in the early postpartum period is required. There is also little research investigating the experiences and unique challenges of women who transition to motherhood in their early 20s, despite it now being non-normative for Australian women to have children in their 20s. Further, there is a lack of research investigating young women’s adjustment to motherhood in the first year postpartum in Australia, despite this time being the most challenging and the year most associated with distress. The majority of research investigating younger mothers’ adjustment in the first year has been conducted in the United States and United Kingdom. To address these gaps, this thesis employed a mixed-methods approach to investigate postpartum distress, wellbeing and factors predictive of each, among first-time Australian mothers aged 15-24 years, in the first year postpartum. Study One involved semi-structured interviews with 12 women, to facilitate in-depth exploration of their experiences of the transition and adjustment to motherhood, and factors which both helped and hindered their transition. The majority of participants described motherhood as rewarding, and for many motherhood served as a catalyst for positive life change, despite day-to-day challenges associated with being a first-time parent. According to interviewees, factors which impacted on adjustment quality included social support, body image, experiences of stigma and beliefs about their own competence as a mother. Study Two surveyed 55 women, to investigate levels of depression, anxiety, stress and wellbeing, and factors predictive of such outcomes. Results revealed that a significant minority of women in the sample experienced depression and anxiety symptoms in the first year postpartum, with significant overlap between both. Overall, mean levels of wellbeing were relatively high. A number of factors were correlated with both distress and wellbeing, including self-esteem, prior mental health problems, social support, body image, and stigma. Relationships between these variables are explained and considered in greater depth, and implications for mental health clinicians and other health professionals are also outlined.

 
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Created: Mon, 06 Jan 2014, 09:32:43 EST by Miss Kate Mulherin on behalf of Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences