Human information behavior, coping, and decision-making in the context of a personal crisis: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the voices of birthmothers on relinquishing a child for adoption Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Clemens, Rachael
    • Affiliation: School of Information and Library Science
  • This qualitative and interpretive inquiry explores the information behavior of birthmothers surrounding the processes of decision-making, coping, and living with the act of child relinquishment to adoption. An interpretative phenomenological analysis methodology is used to reveal the phenomenon as experienced by eight birthmothers, women who voluntarily relinquished a child to adoption. The resulting text is analyzed to expose common patterns across cases, as well as idiographic themes that emerge at the individual case level. This study contributes to research positioned within human information behavior by probing the boundaries of everyday life information seeking models to secure space in which to situate contexts of negative life events and personal crises. The significance of this work for practice, policy, and further research is in offering a deeper understanding of the experience of birthmothers during decision-making and coping processes, both pre- and post-adoption, with specific regard to information needs and information engagement. Using an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) study design, a purposeful sample of eight birthmothers from across the U.S. who relinquished a child within the previous 15 years (since 2000) participated in face-to-face interviews about their own lived experiences. Coincidentally all participants are engaged in some form of open adoption, meaning they participated in selecting adoptive parents and have varying levels of ongoing contact with the adoptive family and the child(ren) they relinquished. Information is central to expectant mothers as they consider and explore options, construct and evaluate versions of future possible selves (terminating pregnancy, parenting, or placing for adoption), and frame their situation in order to move forward. The phenomenon of child relinquishment is seeped in secrecy and shame; information sources are similarly tinged and filtered through the same stigma. Information is scarce and involves significant levels of trust on the part of information consumers. Navigating unfamiliar information pathways to support such an emotional and deeply personal decision impacts a woman’s means to explore and critically assess options surrounding decisions about an unintended pregnancy. Lack of role models, relevant information, and support systems contribute to feelings of uncertainty, vulnerability, and powerlessness for women who make and live with an adoption decision.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Gollop, Claudia
  • Hughes-Hassell, Sandra
  • Wrobel, Gretchen
  • Wildemuth, Barbara
  • Westbrook, Lynn
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2017

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