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Title: How do new/recent mothers experience thoughts of harm related to their newborn? : a thematic analysis
Author: Boyd, C.
ISNI:       0000 0004 8501 9375
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2018
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Several recently published studies indicate that infant-related harm thoughts are common among new parents, with the majority of new mothers reporting the experience of intrusive, infant-related thoughts of accidental harm (e.g. Fairbrother & Woody, 2008). Evidence suggests that unwanted ideation of intentionally harming the baby are also common, experienced less frequently but causing more distress than their accidental counterparts. No evidence of a link between intentional harm thoughts and parental aggression has been found. This study sought to address the gaps in the literature to explore qualitatively the nature of infant-related harm thoughts experienced by a new mother: how she herself defined and assimilated such thoughts, in relation to her cultural expectations of motherhood. A gap also existed in the research that considers how mothers experienced infant-related harm thoughts, images and impulses (IRHTs) within a diverse sample. The overarching aim of this study was to elicit a fuller, critical understanding of the common experience of IRHTs in a mixed, non-clinical sample, exploring how they are understood and shared by women. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight new/recent mothers who had experienced IRHTs related to their youngest child, born within the last two years. Thematic analysis yielded three key themes: Heightened emotions - impact and consequences; Constructions of motherhood and effects on maternal identity; Costs and benefits of sharing. The findings highlighted different ways women conceptualised their IRHTs, their intense emotional impact, and barriers to reporting them due to the surrounding stigma. Additionally, the findings illustrated ways in which the pervasive ideology of motherhood informed mothers' assimilation of IRHTs. Some women pathologised them in order to maintain a 'good' mother identity. However for others, IRHTs prompted reconfiguring of their maternal identity through a constructive process of self-development. Recommendations for clinical practice/future research are outlined, including educating new/recent mothers about the nature of IRHTs. Training for health professionals is also recommended to enhance their understanding and skills in relation to these thoughts, in order to provide a safe space for women to discuss IRHTs, given barriers to disclosure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral