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Surveillance and stigma during pregnancy and early motherhood: the changing experiences of mothers and grandmothers

Grant, Aimee, Mannay, Dawn and Marzella, Ruby 2016. Surveillance and stigma during pregnancy and early motherhood: the changing experiences of mothers and grandmothers. Presented at: British Sociological Society Annual Conference, Aston Conference Centre, Birmingham, UK, 6-8 April 2016.

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Abstract

Pregnancy and motherhood have come to be increasingly subjected to surveillance, by medical professionals, kin and also strangers. Rates of breastfeeding in developed countries vary significantly but research with mothers in countries with low breastfeeding rates has highlighted that public breastfeeding is difficult to navigate within existing constructs of acceptable femininity, due to the sexualisation of the breast in contemporary society. This paper draws on indepth qualitative reserach with six mother/grandmother pairs, where the mothers' infants were aged under 25 months. Data production involved eliciation interviews around the everyday artefacts that participants presented to symbolise their experiences of motherhood and infant care. Participants who were new mothers described the ways in which their behaviours were monitored by those around them, including service-sector employees, friends, family and, to a lesser extent, health professionals. The intergenerational nature of the study allowed a focus on the ways in which surveillance of infant feeding, and mothering more generally, has changed over time, and grandmothers reported considerably lower levels of scrutiny. Drawing on Foucauldian concepts of surveilance, the paper examines the negotiation of acceptable motherhood in relation to the intrusive policing of lifestyle choices, consumption and infant feeding. The paper argues that the moral maze of surveyed motherhood acts to close down mothers agency and situate them in a psychological impasse where ideas of choice and ownership become restricted.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Breast feeding Infant feeding Motherhood Visual methodologies
Funders: Children and Young People's Research Network
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2018 18:46
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/88956

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