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Identities in Process: Becoming Bangladeshi, African Caribbean and White Mothers

March 2005 - July 2008

Does motherhood change a woman's identity? How does becoming a mother differ from how it did a generation ago? And how do such changes differ depending on a woman's ethnic background? While much research has been done on the transition to motherhood, little is known about how ethnicity and 'race' differentiate the process of becoming mothers. This qualitative psycho-social study is about the dynamic, personal experiencing of a particular identity for the first time: becoming a mother. Using two complementary methods, free association narrative interviewing and psychoanalytically informed observation, the research team are studying ten new mothers from each of three ethnic groups - Bangladeshi, African Caribbean and white British, all of whom were born in the UK. The thirty women are being interviewed twice, with two from each group then visited and observed once a week for the first year of their babies' lives to see how the mothers' identities develop. It is anticipated that findings will enhance understanding of the common and culturally different aspects of becoming a mother and contribute to statutory and voluntary service provision to mitigate social exclusion.

The study is funded by the Economic & Social Research Council as part of its ground-breaking £4 million programme of research on Social Identities and Social Action, directed by Prof Margaret Wetherell of the Open University. Findings are expected in early 2008.

Principal Investigator: Prof Wendy Hollway

Learn more about the research programme: Intimate Relationships, Psychosocial