243665 Social Construction of Motherhood among Women with Mental Illness and Co-occurring Disorders

Monday, October 31, 2011: 1:30 PM

Quinn Gentry, MBA, PhD , Urban Health Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Danielle German, PhD, MPH , Department of Health, Behavior & Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Carl Latkin, PhD , Health, Behavior, and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
While public health researchers recognize the importance of gender-specific factors in mental health and co-occurring disorders, research findings do not always translate into relevant interventions for affected women. This study examines the motherhood experiences among a group of women experiencing mental illness and co-occurring disorders to inform more relevant mental health interventions for women who are mothers. The sample includes 11 mothers coping with depression or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders who participated in a larger formative research study. Mothers ranged in age from 26 to 60 years old, with an average age of 45. Mothers had on average 3.2 children, with a combined total of eight minor and 28 adult children. Interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded in Atlas-ti. The constant comparison method was used to analyze diverse mothering experiences. “Distant mothering” emerged as a coping strategy for mothers with co-occurring disorders. Distant mothering allowed these mothers to construct meaning and methods for mothering on the margins. Distant mothering involved: (1) making a positive statement about her mothering efforts; (2) blaming the children or other caregivers for her inability to mother effectively; and (3) “flipping the script” on the parent-child relationship. Distant mothering strategies are consistent with other studies examining coping skills among other groups of marginalized mothers. This study highlights the need to address the social and psychological determinants of mental health and substance abuse disorders among mothers, as well as their minor and adult children.

Learning Areas:
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Examine motherhood as a gender-specific social phenomenon in mental health and substance abuse co-occurring disorders. 2. Identify opportunities to develop more relevant mental health interventions based on the lived experiences and unmet needs of mothers as a priority population in public health.

Keywords: Mental Health, Women's Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a post-doctoral fellow conducting qualitative health research to examine the social determinants of health disparities in the lives of women and girls. I have PHD in Sociology and over a decade of qualitative health research experience
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.