Parenting practices across generations: a mixed methods study of vulnerable mothers’ parenting practices and understandings – to complement THRIVE

Barrett, Simon (2020) Parenting practices across generations: a mixed methods study of vulnerable mothers’ parenting practices and understandings – to complement THRIVE. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Background: The idea of intergenerational transmission of parenting practices is well-established. However, there is no consensus as to how or why this happens. Complementing THRIVE, a randomised controlled trial of two parenting interventions for women with additional health and social care needs, this research sets out to gain an understanding of whether parenting practices are transmitted across generations among this ‘vulnerable’ population, and if so, how. Informed by theories of attachment and social reproduction, this thesis seeks to gain the perspective of these mothers, and understand how childhood experiences, and the ways in which they were parented, impact upon the practices they adopt with their own children. By understanding these women’s lived experiences, and how they respond to them, this mixed methods PhD provides new insights on this topic, and gives a voice to those at whom parenting interventions are targeted.
Methods: Baseline quantitative data from the THRIVE population (N = 463) were analysed, using binary logistic regression, to examine factors associated with parental self-efficacy. Twenty-one women, recruited through THRIVE, participated in in-depth interviews. Interviews focused on their upbringing - in particular their recollections of the parenting practices of their mother and father - and the environment in which these practices were experienced. Participants recorded the parenting style of their parents using the Parental Bonding Instrument.
Findings: Drug use, deprivation, anxiety and having a child removed from the family home are associated with parental self-efficacy among THRIVE participants. Reflections upon childhood experiences are acute for these women during the perinatal period, and often inform conceptualisations of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parenting. These perceptions shape decisions around how they parent their own children. Those who recall ‘optimal’ parenting are likely to attempt to model their approaches on their parents, but mental health issues and other contextual factors may mean they are not always able to do so. Recalled experiences of ‘neglectful’ or ‘affectionless’ parenting may lead to a rejection of the approaches of their parents, but some mothers find themselves repeating these harsh practices. Some mothers may find it difficult to recognise or effectively respond to challenging, externalising behaviours in their children.
Conclusions: Parenting practices can be seen to be passed from one generation to the next, in both conscious and unconscious ways. Underlying vulnerabilities, compounded by life histories that include adversity, trauma and deprivation, may make it difficult for mothers to consistently parent in warm and supportive ways and break unwanted cycles. Parenting interventions targeted at these mothers should: incorporate ways of alleviating the added difficulties associated with these contextual factors; seek to improve maternal self-efficacy; and take account of the subjective nature of parenting and internalised norms and beliefs.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Parenting, parenting practices, intergenerational transmission, Adverse Childhood Experiences, ACEs, adversity, vulnerable, mothers, children, upbringing, THRIVE, attachment, bonding.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences
Funder's Name: Medical Research Council
Supervisor's Name: Buston, Doctor Katie and Henderson, Professor Marion
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Simon Barrett
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81582
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 Aug 2020 16:11
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2022 10:23
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81582

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