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Keywords:

  • antenatal clinic;
  • childbearing women;
  • maternal role development;
  • midwifery;
  • prospective survey;
  • social support

Abstract

Title. Maternal role development following childbirth among Australian women.

Aim.  This paper is a report on the examination of demographic, birthing and social correlates of maternal role development in childbearing women.

Background.  Successful adaptation to the maternal role provides a mother with confidence and satisfaction in her ability to nurture and care for her infant. Despite the importance of this developmental process for maternal well-being, little attention has been given to social and demographic predictors of positive role development in recent years.

Methods.  A prospective study was undertaken at three publicly-funded metropolitan antenatal clinics in Queensland, Australia between March and November 2003. A total of 605 women completed a survey at 36 weeks gestation and 12 weeks postpartum, with a response rate of 78% (n = 473). A self-report questionnaire was used to collect data about personal and birth variables, domestic violence, social support and maternal role development.

Findings.  The majority of women (81%) were of White ethnic background, modal age was 30–45 years (40%, n = 189) and 66 percent (n = 312) were in paid employment. Bivariate analysis identified age, marital status, length of relationship and social support to be statistically significantly associated with maternal role development. Optimal scaling showed social support to be the most important factor in maternal role development.

Conclusion.  Maternal role development following childbirth is complex and can be adversely affected by older maternal age, married status, inadequate social support and short partner relationships. A deeper understanding of this process is needed if healthcare professionals are to assist mothers in making a smooth transition to motherhood.