Emotional Experiences of Early Parenthood in Australian Families

While awareness of perinatal depression and anxiety is growing, nuanced understandings of ‘normal’ emotions over the transition to parenthood grounded in the diversity and complexity of contemporary family life are lacking.

Commissioned by Healthdirect Australia and part of Healthtalk Australia, this project took a contextual and inclusive approach to exploring a diverse group of Australians’ emotional experiences of becoming a parent. Video and audio-recorded interviews underpinned the development of an innovative online resource to support new parents, and inform healthcare providers and policymakers about lived experiences of early parenthood in Australia. Content is also cross-posted on Healthdirect Australia’s platforms which have a significant national reach.

This study showed that many parents’ expectations and experiences of early parenthood differed, creating problems in relationships; lack of informal support was common; stigmatization and poor understanding of perinatal depression caused undue distress; and that perinatal health professionals focused on physical rather than emotional care.

These findings are helping improve policies and services to support new parents in Australia, including those experiencing perinatal distress. Furthermore, findings have been incorporated into training resources for antenatal educators and maternal and child health nurses, and in the NSW Year 12 curriculum which will in turn help to further improve services for new parents in Australia.

Chief Investigator
Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic

Funder
Healthdirect Australia

Date of Award
2013-2014

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