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Title: Adoption talk and the social construction of motherhood
Author: Ruane, Sally
ISNI:       0000 0001 3539 1425
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 1990
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This study investigates what can be learnt about motherhood from the adoption process. In particular, it focuses upon the experiences of natural mothers who consider relinquishing newborn babies for adoption, and draws chiefly upon accounts given in semi -structured interviews by mothers and professionals involved in the adoption process. These accounts are analysed with a view to finding out what meanings individuals confer on pregnancy and motherhood in specific circumstances; what explanations and justifications are offered for decisions taken regarding the possible placement of the infant; what identity threats women experience as a result of pregnancy outside marriage and their involvement in the adoption process; what expectations exist regarding maternal behaviour and feeling in relation to the child; and how women conceive of themselves as mothers when they lose their children through adoption. The rhetorical and performative aspects of accounts offered, particularly in view of the significance of motherhood choices for women's respectability, are addressed in some detail. Gaining access to the field has proved difficult, in part because some professionals believe only social workers should carry out such research. The difficulty of obtaining access in the ways at first intended led to a modification of the original research design. In this way, methodological issues have become a more prominent part of the study. The research has identified various processes through which motherhood is socially constructed in the adoption process. Justifications of the decision taken make appeal to such values as the best interests of the child, maternal self-sacrifice, realism, the irreplaceability of the mother-child bond, and family integrity. Considerable variation is permitted regarding the behaviour of the mother to her child, but strong expectations exist concerning maternal feeling. Women believe they have a continuing obligation to their 'lost' children, particularly to agree to contact should the child so wish and to provide an account of the decision.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociology