Motherhood and professional identity in the context of female clinical psychologists with children

PhD Thesis

Gaiotto, L. 2011. Motherhood and professional identity in the context of female clinical psychologists with children. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Department of Applied Psychology
AuthorsGaiotto, L.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDClinPsychol

Section A situates female clinical psychologists with children within the wider socio-historical context of working-mothers. Theoretical and empirical evidence of modernist and post-modernist approaches on the development of the working-mother identity is provided. This is followed by the literature on mothers employed in the caring profession and in psychology. The review highlights the need to further explore the relationship between social, professional and personal for female clinical psychologists with children within a socio-constructionist perspective.
Section B investigates the social and professional challenges encountered by female clinical psychologists with children.
Clinical psychology is an increasingly female profession, and many clinical psychologists are or will be mothers. Yet, proportionately fewer reach consultant positions (Band 8c and above) compared to their male colleagues. Existing historical professional structures, and traditional societal ideologies about motherhood and employment might be continuously negotiated within broader social positionings of working-mothers. This study aimed to explore the constructions of a sample of clinical psychologists who are mothers (CP-Ms) of their social identity. Foucauldian discourse analysis was used to explore the discourses available and drawn upon by CP-Ms to construct their professional and motherhood identity, and what were the subject positions they occupied. Ten qualified female clinical psychologists with pre-school children employed in a local NHS Trust were individually interviewed. CP-Ms’ identity was constructed as either a mother or a clinical psychologist, as being similar and different to other working-mothers. CP-Ms discoursed psychological knowledge and practices as potentially damaging their motherhood experience and their social relationships; they also discoursed motherhood and psychology as mutually enriching. Motherhood and professional identity were discoursed in opposition to one another, and yet the participants also constructed their CP-M identity as a continuous dynamic journey of reframing, of which they were agentic. This study suggests that the construction of CP-Ms’ identity is complex as it involves actively negotiating contradictions and overlaps between motherhood and clinical psychology. Further research is needed. Professional and clinical implications are discussed.
Section C aims to elaborate on the research skills learnt during the research process, and on the abilities that need to be further developed. It continues with a critical appraisal of the study, before reflecting on possible clinical recommendations. Lastly, a potential new project is presented.

KeywordsMotherhood, Working mothers, Clinical psychologists, Professional identity, Foucauldian discourse analysis
Publication process dates
Deposited23 Nov 2011
SubmittedJul 2011
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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