The social psychology of 'post natal depression'.
The aim of this thesis has been to reconceptualize 'post natal
depression' and challenge the 'clinical' and 'social science'
models of explanation. It has focussed on
a) whether 'post natal depression' is an objective phenomenon, and
b) whether the experience of 'post natal depression' is the same
for every women, and
C) whether there are any common features of the experience of
childbirth and early mothering which enable the construction of
It begins by suggesting that the 'clinical' and 'social science'
models are problematic in that they are based on ideological
assumptions and not scientific evidence about what is 'normal'
following childbirth. This is explored by examining the previous
literature and by using a pre-validated measure of 'post natal
depression' in the pilot work alongside semi-structured interviews.
The literature demonstrates a history of weak conceptualization and
associated poor methodology, with explicit and implicit assumptions
about the psychology of women, childbirth and the motherhood role.
This thesis therefore sets out to re-examine and re-define 'post
natal depression' by analysing detailed accounts of pregnancy,
childbirth and early motherhood within a framework suggested by
Gidden's stratification model of knowledge and other frameworks
which take human reflexiveness into account..
The research comprised a small-scale longitiudinal study in which
24 women were interviewed up to four times; during pregnancy, and
one, three and six months after delivery. The data comprised indepth
verbatim transcriptions (from tape recorded interviews) which
were analyzed to consider the meaning of the experience of
childbirth, depression and early mothering to the individual
respondent, and also to review the common features of the experience in order to suggest a construction of what is 'normal'
The conclusion identifies certain elements of experience which are
likely to lead to 'depression' at various stages after childbirth.
These are concerned with physical stress, initial ibsecurities and
lack of effective support and loss of former identity. They are not
co-terminus with the 'stressors' of the 'social science' model in
that their effect is totally subject to the meaning attributed to
the events by each woman within the context of her biography.