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Adult daughters of mothers who struggled with anxiety: moving out of home

Santos, S. (2018). Adult daughters of mothers who struggled with anxiety: moving out of home. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Most research focussing on being a child of an anxious mother is deficit-focussed. The exploration of children’s possible benefits and positive experiences have been neglected. Such research has not considered the influence of maternal anxiety on children’s developmental stage. Emerging adulthood (occurring between the ages of 18-25 years) has been regarded as a potentially vulnerable developmental stage due to high incidence of mental health problems and risk behaviours during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The transition of moving out of home often occurs during this stage. It presents opportunities for individuation, psychological growth and adult-to-adult interaction. Attachment, parental mental health and psychosocial competence are some factors found to affect adaptation to transition. The mother-adult daughter dyad is of particular interest in relation to this area as it has the greatest interdependence and connection amongst all familial relationships. This study therefore aimed to gain a narrative of the experiences of moving out of home in adult daughters whose mothers struggled with anxiety. Eight participants shared their experiences through semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Four superordinate themes emerged: feeling stuck, from togetherness to separation, what is out there and identity. Findings reflected the journey of each participant, from feeling restricted at home to deciding to move out; to actioning their decision but with both mother and daughter struggling with the separation process; to flourishing in their new environments through developing their identity, independence, autonomy and social networks. Clinical implications relate to identification of key areas for exploration in therapeutic work with adult daughters and/or their anxious mothers. Consideration is also given to links with wider networks to promote wellbeing in these individuals following transition.

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