Title. An integrated mid-range theory of postpartum family development: a guide for research and practice
Aim. This paper is a report of a study to identify parents’ perceptions of postpartum family experiences.
Background. There is a growing worldwide emphasis on family support. Government policy in the United Kingdom advocates a family-centred approach in which a core universal postbirth service is offered to all families with additional support for parents of children with complex needs. Health visitors provide family postpartum care without an agreed theory directing or standardizing practice. There is a need to identify parental experiences to define family-centred care.
Method. A qualitative, exploratory approach was undertaken using a purposive sample of 17 postpartum families. Data were collected in one region of Northern Ireland in 2001–2002. Participants’ experiences and views were accessed during two focus groups with a total of seven participants, and six in-depth interviews. Thematic analysis was conducted.
Findings. One core theme, ‘thriving and surviving’, and three main themes, ‘baby nurture’, ‘life changes’, ‘coping and adapting resources’, were identified to describe how parents developed during the first 8-week postpartum. These were influenced by the physical, the psychosocial and the environmental factors. The identified themes were mapped together to form an Integrated Mid-Range Theory of Postpartum Parent Development.
Conclusion. As parents need to negotiate successfully both present coping and future development during the postpartum period, there is a need for professionals to offer services that are orientated to holistic short- and long-term well-being. The findings, further to additional research, may be used by health visitors and other professionals to direct universal postpartum care.