Lived experiences of becoming and being a young maternal grandmother: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In the last 40 years there has been a surge of academic research into grandparenthood as a result of increased longevity and changing family structures. However, limited research has been identified that explores the experiences of young grandparenthood in England, despite academic researchers’ assertions of deviant young grandparenthood made in the 1980s. Maternal grandmothers have been reported to be the most involved grandparent in the lives of their grandchildren. Further, there is likelihood that the transition to young maternal grandmotherhood is a consequence of young motherhood (of mother and/or daughter). Young motherhood literatures report that mothers of young mothers (maternal grandmothers) can be a primary source of support for their daughters, yet this body of research rarely focuses on the maternal grandmother. With the current cultural norm of grandparenting childcare in the UK and the UK Government’s objectives of increasing women in work, improving maternal health, child health and economic self-sufficiency for young mothers, it is important to understand how young maternal grandmothers are, or are not, contributing to Government targets whilst balancing their own working and family lives. This study makes initial steps in addressing these neglected areas of research by exploring the lived experiences of 10 young maternal grandmothers (aged 35 to 42 years at first transition) living in England. Data was collected using face-to-face semi-structured interviews, prompt objects and photo elicitation in order to answer the research question, ‘what are the lived experiences of young maternal grandmotherhood?’ Guided by British sociologists’ conceptualisations of family life and relationships and the use of Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), data were analysed at an idiographic level before moving on to explore convergences and divergences across person cases, resulting in the emergence of shared patterns of meaning and experience. Analysis of the transitional stage to grandmotherhood identified two essential experiences: Experiencing acceptance (or lack of acceptance) of her daughter’s pregnancy and experiencing acceptance (or lack of acceptance) of her grandmotherhood. Analysis of being a young maternal grandmother identified three essential experiences: Experiencing grandmothering through time, distance, places, spaces and inanimate objects; experiencing grandmotherhood in the social world (the influence of others and on others); owning and romancing the grandchild, experiences of connectedness and disconnectedness. The study concludes with a discussion of the current findings in relation to existing literatures and new understandings. Consideration is applied to the research design and the perceived strengths and limitations. The wider implications of this research are presented with specific focus on the potential to develop a conceptual framework for use in intervention measures for mothers (young maternal grandmothers) and/or daughters (young mothers) and recommendations for possible future directions in this research area.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorM Dobson (Supervisor) & J Sixsmith (Supervisor)

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