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The meaning and experience of starting a family for couples who were initially undecided about having children : a phenomenological investigation Towill, Kristina

Abstract

A qualitative phenomenological research design was used to investigate the experience of parenthood decision-making for couples who were initially uncertain about starting a family. The purpose of the study was to explicate couples' experiences of deciding if, and when, to have children, including how they determine the viability and timing of parenting in their lives and relationships. Eight couples who had recently made the decision to try to have a child volunteered to describe their experiences and understanding of parenthood decision-making in joint, in-depth, audio-taped interviews. A thematic analysis of the essential meaning structures of participants' parenthood decision-making experiences revealed six common themes: A Sense of the Costs of Parenthood; A Sense of Fear; Changing Perceptions from the Costs to the Gains of Parenthood; An Emerging Sense of Readiness for Parenthood; A Sense of Excitement and Curiosity; and A Sense of Faith in the Relationship. These themes were confirmed and refined through validation interviews with participants. These findings are discussed as they relate to and extend upon models of decision-making, in general, and of parenthood decision-making, in particular. It is argued that the results support a conceptualization of parenthood decision-making as a complex and value-laden phenomenon that is comprised of both individual and interpersonal components.

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