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Title: Women's experience of motherhood : a study of women with pre-school children
Author: Boulton, Mary Georgina
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1982
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This thesis describes the way 50 women in London experienced motherhood. It is based on in-depth interviews with 25 working-class and 25 middle-class women, living with their husbands, with 2, 3 or 4 children, at least one of whom was under 5. First, the views on motherhood of biological perspectives (psychoanalysis and ethology) and social perspectives (sociology and social anthropology) are critically reviewed and the framework and methods for the empirical study are spelled out. Central to this framework is the distinction between two dimensions of experience: immmediate response (enjoyment or irritation) to caring for children, and, sense of meaning and purpose which may or may not be experienced in such care. The main body of the thesis is a description of the women's experience in terms of these two dimensions. Successive chapters outline the irritation which the women expressed with the demanding nature of preschool children; with the organization and setting of child care; and with the sense of loss of individuality felt in motherhood. A following chapter describes the sense of meaning and purpose which the women conveyed as arising from feeling needed and wanted by their children and from investing hopes, dreams and ambitions in them. From these accounts, a four-fold typology of experiences of motherhood is developed. The influence of a husband's practical help and emotional support on a woman's experience is also examined. Throughout, social class differences are a particular focus of attention. A third dimension of experience, satisfaction with maternity, is then distinguished and the limitations of conventional measures of satisfaction are drawn out by a comparison of the interviewer and self-reported assessments. Finally, an attempt is made to place the women's experience in a cross-cultural perspective which highlights the difficult and demanding circumstances in which they cared for their children.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Women'S Studies