Parenting in the “extreme”: An exploration into the psychological well‐being of long‐term adoptive mothers

Kohn, Charmaine, Pike, Alison and de Visser, Richard O. (2023) Parenting in the “extreme”: An exploration into the psychological well‐being of long‐term adoptive mothers. Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies . ISSN 1741-3729

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Objective: The objective of this study was to increase understanding of factors that influence adoptive mothers' psychological and emotional well‐being. The aims were to compare mothers' self‐reported emotional state 12 months after child placement to the time of the interview and to identify factors that challenge and support maternal mental health. Background: Mothers who adopt children face unique challenges that put them at a heightened risk of negative mental health. There is a need for better understanding of the influences on their psychological and emotional well‐being. Method: This qualitative study involved nine in‐depth semistructured interviews. Transcripts were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis. Results: The themes offered broad insights, including the consistency of negative mental health across time associated with demands of 'extreme parenting,' strains within and across relationships, and deprioritizing self‐care. Factors associated with positive mental health included development of love; attachment and sense of family identity; learning, competence, and 'therapeutic parenting,' and the ability to 'offload.' Conclusion: The emotional and psychological well‐being of mothers who adopt children should be validated and recognized as important to the overall adjustment of adoptive families. Implications: Adoption agencies should take a proactive approach to addressing the mental health needs of adoptive mothers, providing comprehensive information, ongoing support, and regular assessments.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: First Submitted: Aug 21, 2022; Accepted: Apr 4, 2023
Uncontrolled Keywords: Research & Development Unit, adoption, adoptive motherhood, extreme parenting, mental health, therapeutic parenting
Subjects: Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Adoption & Fostering- Psychology
Families > Mother Child Relations
Families > Parent Child Relations/Parenthood
Department/People: Research

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