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Title: Experiencing absence : fathering in the context of maternal postnatal depression
Author: Beestin, Leah
ISNI:       0000 0004 2718 222X
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2012
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Introduction: Being a father is able to invoke substantial social, emotional and psychological changes for men (e.g. Daly, Ashbourne& Brown, 2009; Palm, 1993). The extent and nature of these changes, and a man's global experiences of fatherhood, can be influenced by many factors (e.g. individual characteristics, and contextual issues such as work pressures and marital satisfaction). Although research has begun to examine some local contexts which might affect the nature and experience of fathering (e.g. being a teenage father or the father of an ill child), little research has explored the impact on men's paternal experiences when the mother is suffering from postnatal depression (PND). This dearth of empirical research is surprising given that maternal PND has a high incidence rate and has been identified as having significant and widespread impacts on mothers themselves, their children and their partners (Almond, 2009). Aim: The present study adopted a phenomenological perspective to understand the ways in which fathering is experienced by men whose partners are, or have been, postnatally depressed. Methods: Potential participants were recruited via PND support groups, a dads' group, family outreach workers and word of mouth. Following ethical safeguarding, in-depth and repertory grid interviews were conducted with a final sample of 14 (first-time and multiparous) fathers, aged between 25-50 years, whose partners were perceived by the men to have experienced, or to be experiencing, postnatal depression. After conducting four semi-structured interviews with participants, the decision was taken to shift the method of data collection to one which could be more participant-led, namely the narrative interview, which proved to be a highly successful method of data generation. Following transcription, all 14 in-depth interviews were subjected to Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Findings: Men's experiences of fathering in the context of maternal PND were both complex and diverse. Some men felt they were 'filling a void' which was perceived to have resulted from the mothers' withdrawal from parenting. Others felt their fathering was thwarted, as they could not conduct their paternal roles in the way they had wished. For others, the experience of maternal Pl'm was felt to have prevented a much desired sense of togetherness within the family unit. A few men felt that their experiences of fathering were relatively untouched in this context. Inherent in each of these themes was the sense that PND had created absences within the family unit which had impacted on the ways men conducted and experienced their paternal roles. The findings of the repertory grid interviews were in the main supportive of the outcomes of the interpretative phenomenological analysis of participants' accounts. The repertory grid technique was critically evaluated in light of the IPA study and some methodological limitations noted. Nevertheless, the potential in mixing the repertory grid interview with IPA research was recognised. Conclusion: The ways in which men conduct and experience fathering can be significantly and diversely affected in the context of maternal PND. Men fathering in this context may experience specific challenges, but may also experience personal development and successful adaptation to their circumstances. These findings make a compelling case for an inclusive approach to supporting families in the context of maternal PND which involves fathers, mothers and their children.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available