City Research Online

Making Sense of Parenthood

Jolly, C. (2014). Making Sense of Parenthood. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City London University)


Research into parents’ experiences of becoming parents is widespread. However research regarding therapy for parents, and how that may impact on the meanings parents give to parenthood is rare. In response to this lack of knowledge, this study explores parents’ experiences of counselling at SureStart children’s centres and how that experience affects their perceptions of themselves as parents, and their on-going experience of parenthood. The study was conducted using phenomenological methodology. Data was collected via four semi-structured interviews. Participants were parents who had received counselling at a local children’s centre. They had between two and four children each, aged between eight months and four years. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Three superordinate themes are evidenced – i. Who am I?, ii. Feeling out of Control and iii. Parenthood and Counselling. Parents’ sense of a parental identity and sense of agency changed when they became parents and over time, and therapy was used to explore these differences in experience. Despite accessing therapy, participants did not identify with people whom they thought of as needing mental health services. It is suggested that children’s centre counselling services could become a “gateway” to other parenting support as the parent learns to experience a therapeutic relationship, gains a better sense of agency, and trusts that the professionals are not judging them. The findings are examined in the light of the extant literature which suggests, for example, that parents may experience dissonance between their concept of “parent” and their concept of “client.” They may also find parenthood harder if their thinking is not “principle led”. The research findings indicate that there is still much to learn about this participant group, and suggestions are made for further research in this area.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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