Fathers' experiences of a mother and baby unit: a qualitative study

PhD Thesis

Kemp, N. 2011. Fathers' experiences of a mother and baby unit: a qualitative study. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Department of Applied Psychology
AuthorsKemp, N.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDClinPsychol

Section A presents a literature review of the issues and challenges facing fathers in the postnatal period, in the context of an historical marginalisation of fathers in the study of child development. The review leads to a specific focus on the limited research evidencing the increased risk fathers face to their mental health, when coping with a partner's admission to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU).
Section B Fathers' experience of the joint admission of a partner and child to an MBU has been the subject of limited research, despite initial findings suggesting fathers are at increased risk of postnatal paternal mental health difficulties. This qualitative study aimed to explore the lived experience of fathers in this context, to inform the validity of future research in the area. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was carried out following semi-structured interviews with six fathers in south east England. Five master themes showed that these fathers experienced the onset of their partners' postnatal mental health difficulties as unexpected and traumatic. Fathers needed to acknowledge limits in their ability to help, and the necessity of calling on specialist services. During admission, fathers felt pulled physically and emotionally between managing their own needs, and the needs of their partner and new baby. Themes showing the MBU admission challenged their fathering role and identity were contrasted with the importance fathers placed in treatment needing to be a 'family affair', inclusive and supportive of the father, and mindful of the impacts on the couple relationship. The impact of culture on fathers' adjustment to involvement at the MBU was noteworthy. In conclusion, this research helps understand the importance of including the father where appropriate in a mother's recovery programme, and helping the father define a role alongside the clinical team. The findings of the study validate the efforts of government policy to build effective family focused perinatal services.
Section C sets out the journey taken from the ethnographic inception of the research idea, through dilemmas encountered in carrying out the study, to reflections on what was learnt during the process.

KeywordsMother and baby units; Fathers; Interpretative phenomenological analysis; Paternal postnatal depression
Publication process dates
Deposited31 Oct 2011
SubmittedMay 2011
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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