Emotion work, labeling, and gender in post-partum and post-adoptive depression Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Kane, Heather Lynne
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • Based on 59 in-depth interviews with women who defined themselves as depressed after the birth or adoption of a child, this dissertation examines post-partum and post-adoptive depression (PPD and PAD, respectively). In Chapter 1, I address the women's discrepant feelings in relation to motherhood and analyze how they came to take on the labels PPD and PAD. Experiencing discrepant emotions, they tried to convince themselves that they were not bad mothers. After looking for alternative explanations, the women performed the work that "good mothers" should. They hoped that this would transform their feelings, but those feelings moved from discrepant to deviant emotions (Thoits 1985). Eventually, they blamed themselves for their feelings and appropriated the label. Some sought help from healthcare providers; others found relief in non-medical solutions and non-mother identities. In Chapter 2, I analyze the husbands' strategies for alleviating their wives' pain. Doing emotion work, which is defined as women's work (Bartky 1990), might have threatened their masculinity. But, the strategies ultimately shored up white, middle-class masculinity. Guided by ideas of masculine control (Johnson 2005), the men offered breaks from child care, took charge of the situation, asked their wives to cheer up, and avoided conflict. They did so in ways that allowed them to believe they were good companionate husbands and fathers. The women reported mixed evaluations of their husbands' efforts. They appreciated their husbands' "help," but their husbands did not change the women's circumstances or feelings. In Chapter 3, I examine how adoptive parents dealt with the complex deviance associated with adoption. Adoption is simultaneously a form of positive and negative deviance. Adoptive parents fulfill prescriptions to become parents, but do so by means that are still considered dubious or "second best" (Fisher 2003). Parents managed the negative aspects of adoption by approximating biology: seeking children with similar physical characteristics and invoking cultural scripts associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Parents managed the positives by rejecting others' comments that they were "rescuing children"; these "compliments" devalued their children as charity cases. Finally, the parents ennobled themselves and their children for having endured more hardships in becoming a family.
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  • Kleinman, Sherryl
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