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Baby or beauty: a Q study into post pregnancy body image

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The idea that women, particularly new mothers, are overly concerned with weight and body shape has much currency in our culture. The literature in this area is contradictory, some arguing, for example, that body image is integral to women's narratives of early motherhood, others that it is of peripheral concern. This paper presents the results of research conducted into women's body image after pregnancy. The study used Q methodology to explore the manifold understandings of women who had recently given birth. Research and piloting produced 60 statements identified as relevant to the concerns of new mothers. Twenty participants, who had given birth in the previous 3 years, were asked to sort these statements into quasi-normal distributions. These sorts were then factor analysed to identify six dominant narratives: ‘family centred', ‘stressed', ‘happy mothers', ‘missing personal space', ‘supportive family' and ‘mother/child oriented'. By focusing on the complexity of these narratives, rather than isolating correlational variables or entering into polarized discourses, a deeper reading of these accounts is possible. In other words, by exploring how women relate body image to other concerns, it is possible to learn more about how body image is constructed and the part it plays in women's self narratives.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Psychology Group, Faculty of Health, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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