Budds, Kirsty (2013) A Critical Discursive Analysis of ‘Older’ Motherhood. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Over the past few decades the number of ʻolder mothersʼ – women who begin their families at age 35 or over, has markedly increased. Concerns about rising numbers of ʻolder mothersʼ have been expressed by health professionals, who have warned of the risks of infertility and health risks to mother and baby that increase with advancing maternal age. Informed by a social constructionist epistemology, a central aim of this thesis is to contribute to understandings of ʻolder motherhoodʼ, through the identification of the ʻdiscursive terrainʼ that constitutes its meaning. A second aim is to consider the implications such discursive meanings may have for women who are positioned as ʻolder mothersʼ. In order to address these aims, 26 newspaper articles about ʻolder motherhoodʼ, and 11 in-depth interviews carried out with ʻolder mothersʼ were analysed using a critical discursive psychological approach.

It is considered that the media predominantly position ʻolder mothersʼ as ʻselfishʼ - as those who ʻchooseʼ to ʻdelayʼ motherhood and therefore position them as responsible for putting themselves and their babies ʻat riskʼ. The ʻolderʼ mothers in this study did not identify with this representation and often worked to resist it through challenging the notion that their timing of motherhood was a choice, negotiating their degree of personal ʻriskʼ, and constructing themselves as ʻgoodʼ mothers. Moreover, it is argued that far from a ʻselfish choiceʼ, older motherhood is shaped by societal definitions of the ʻrightʼ or ʻidealʼ situation in which to become a mother, in addition to current ideologies of ʻgoodʼ motherhood that effectively define when a woman is ʻreadyʼ for motherhood. Finally, some recommendations for health professionals are made with respect to appropriate handling of the communication of the risks associated with later motherhood.

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