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The meaning and lived experience of maternal guilt Seagram, Samantha

Abstract

A qualitative, phenomenological methodology was used to explore and describe the experience and meaning of maternal guilt. Eight women between the ages of 32 and 42 years of age with one or more preadolescent children were interviewed about their experiences of maternal guilt. Using Colaizzi's (1978) approach to phenomenological data analysis the following seven common themes regarding these women's experiences of maternal guilt emerged: a sense of complete responsibility, a sense of depletion, a sense of inadequacy, fear that their children might come to harm, a strong desire to have a positive impact on their children, a sense of profound connection, and a sense of loss. The first six themes were common to all the women while the last one, a sense of loss, was common to all but one participant. A follow up interview with each of the women served to confirm or clarify the findings generated from the initial interview. These results provide a greater understanding of the experience and meaning of maternal guilt for these eight women. Recommendations for counsellors and for future research are provided.

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