Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology

School

School of Psychology and Social Science

Faculty

Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Julie Ann Pooley

Abstract

The onset of parenthood signifies a transition point in a person’s life, which requires adaptation to a variety of changes and is often considered a time of great stress and great joy. Posttraumatic growth (PTG) or positive psychological outcomes can be experienced as a result of an individual’s struggles with highly stressful or challenging life events, such as the birth of a child. The current research explores the relationship between PTG and the transition to motherhood. Two studies investigated women’s retrospective perceptions of PTG regarding their first experience of parenthood. Study One employed a quantitative methodology to examine the extent to which participants’ perceived social support, self-efficacy, and level of perceived stress surrounding the birth of their first child, predicted PTG. A sample of 83 participants completed the Post Traumatic Growth Inventory; the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support; the Mastery - Self-Efficacy Scale; and the Impact of Events Scale-Revised. Data were analysed using a standard multiple regression analysis to determine which variable/s significantly and independently predicted the level of PTG. Results indicated that perceived social support was the only variable to achieve significance (F(3,78)= 3.333; p < 0.05). To gain a holistic perception of how and why social support played such a vital role in predicting PTG, a second study was conducted. Study Two followed-up with a qualitative exploration of ten women’s perceptions of social support across the transition to motherhood, in order to illicit greater understanding of its relationship to PTG. Thematic content analysis of transcripts revealed four main themes: reassurance, help seeking, self-efficacy, and changes in the self. Additionally the role of the women’s expectations and recommendations for others is discussed. This research has therapeutic implications for therapists who may be able to utilise these findings to encourage and enhance positive outcomes, coping, and adaptation in individuals experiencing a crisis and/or stressful life transitions. Additionally this research adds to the evidence supporting the use of the PTGI as a general measure of growth, thereby allowing it to be applied to incidents and experiences outside of those traditionally defined as traumatic.

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Psychology Commons

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