Look after me too: an exploration of the Adoptive Parent Experience (APEx)

Kohn, Charmaine (2022) Look after me too: an exploration of the Adoptive Parent Experience (APEx). Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis explored the lived experience of adoptive parents with emphasis on psychological wellbeing.

Paper 1 examines the transition to adoptive motherhood from point of decision to adopt to end of first-year post-placement (the ‘transition’ period). Nine semi-structured interviews were analysed using Reflexive Thematic Analysis (RTA) revealing five key themes: ‘Reality not living up to expectation’, ‘Uncertainty and Powerlessness’, ‘Emotional and Physical Fatigue’, ‘Uniqueness, Difference and Isolation’ and ‘Love, Loss and Ambivalence’. Most notably, adopters reported high level of negative mental health, specifically Post Adoption Depression.

Paper 2 draws from the same data set as paper 1; however, explored adopters’ sense of psychological wellbeing from transition through to time of interview. Analysis (RTA) revealed factors which challenge (‘Demands of “extreme parenting”’, ‘Strains within and across relationships’ and ‘Deprioritising self-care’) and protect (‘Development of love, attachment and sense of family identity’, ‘Learning, competence and “Therapeutic Parenting”’ and ‘The ability to “off-load”’) psychological wellbeing. Overarching, was a cry from adopters to be heard, respected and their mental wellbeing supported.

Paper 3 explored the impact of COVID-19 on adopters’ psychological wellbeing. Through a mixed-method online study, 170 adopters reported on their wellbeing 3 months v post-pandemic lockdown, with a subset of 65 adopters providing longitudinal data: 6- and 9-months post-pandemic lockdown. Quantitative results indicated a robustness to adopter’s resilience as wellbeing levels remained in the ‘normal’ range at all timepoints with quality of parenting experience a significant predictive factor. Qualitative analysis (RTA) revealed themes concerning the challenges and protectors of wellbeing with the importance of connection (‘Along but not alone’ and ‘Isolation’), merging work-school-parenting-family life domains (‘Dysregulation of Family Functioning’ and ‘Merging of Life Domains’) and the value of resilience (‘Self-Care’, ‘Engaging in Self-Care’ and ‘Personal Qualities of Resilience’) highlighted.

Implications for clinical practice, policy and research are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ0503 The Family. Marriage. Home > HQ0755 Parents. Parenthood Including parent and child, husbands, fathers, wives, mothers
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2022 09:49
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 09:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/109498

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