The Mother and The Child Clinical Psychologist: a Discursive Analysis of Professional Conversations
Aim Motherhood is placed under a lens by society: mothers are expected to fit within narrowly defined characteristics which dictate who mothers should be and how they should act. Although there are numbers of articles that explore this issue, little attention has been paid to how health professionals, and clinical psychologists in particular, position themselves in relation to societal ideas about motherhood. The research aims to define the discursive resources used by Clinical Psychologists (CPs) to construct the shapes and identities of motherhood, and to explore how these resources were deployed. Method A discourse analysis approach is employed. Data came from 3 focus group interviews (N=9), which were set up in order to explore motherhood and mothers. Participants were all qualified CPs working within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the UK. The research is positioned within a social constructionist frame and takes a critical realist position. The analysis includes elements of both discursive psychology and critical discourse analysis, filtered through a postmodern feminist lens. Findings A number of discursive practices and identity positions around womanhood and motherhood were highlighted and a set of interlinked dilemmas emerged for women around how to be a woman and how to be a mother. A further dilemma emerged for CPs which encompassed how they worked with women, and what positions they took when doing so. Womanhood and motherhood appeared to be troubled, which had the potential to oppress mothers attending CAMHS. Female CPs were included within this trouble, however, which created interesting juxtapositions within the deployment of discursive resources. Finally, some positive discursive practices were identified which highlighted acceptance and tolerance of pluralities of being a woman and being a mother. Implications Reflection, deconstruction and an opening up of the debate were seen to be useful devices in helping psychologists to expose potentially oppressive practices. Politicisation of psychology was also explored.