Supporting transition to parenthood in Aotearoa New Zealand
Keywords:first-time parents, family support, narrative methods
INTRODUCTION: Recent rhetoric about investing in ‘vulnerable’ children disregards the reality that the magnitude of change accompanying adaptation to parenthood makes all infants and their families vulnerable. This article reports the findings of a small-scale qualitative study of Aotearoa New Zealand parents’ experiences of transition to parenthood and their views on support received or wished for.
AIM: To gain insight into how adaptation to life with a baby is experienced and how support could be improved.
METHODS: The study involved sequential in-depth interviews with each of 25 socioeconomically diverse first-time mothers and a single set of interviews with 11 fathers and one grandmother. Narrative analysis was used to discern themes.
FINDINGS: Participants expressed surprise regarding challenges inherent in adaptation to parenthood. While they deeply appreciated support from Lead Maternity Carers, they saw later professional support as ‘for the baby’. They found little support to deal with problems experienced, which encompassed financial, accommodation, mental health and relationship issues.
CONCLUSION: A true investment approach would build on families’ commitment to making beneficial change for the sake of their baby. Well-being could be promoted by longer stays in maternity facilities and straightforward information and coaching about dealing with change as well as about infant care. Fathers’ needs should be carefully considered to help secure engagement in life with a baby. There is a key role for family support social work in designing relevant services and in meeting a need for ‘someone to talk to’ for early help to process change and resolve problems.
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