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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Becoming mum: exploring the emergence and Formulation of a mother’s identity during the transition into motherhood

Reveley, Samantha (2019) Becoming mum: exploring the emergence and Formulation of a mother’s identity during the transition into motherhood. In: Childbearing and the Changing Nature of Parenthood:The Contexts, Actors, and Experiences of Having Children. Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, 14 . Emerald Publishing, Bingley, pp. 23-51. ISBN 9781838670672

Item Type: Book Section


Purpose – The transition into motherhood is a major life course event for most women, and is one that can be fraught with difficulties due to the uncertainty and instability which accompanies it. Previous research has explored what factors interplay within this transition with identity changes being considered a key attribute. By using assemblage theory, this study aims to undertake an innovative approach to conceptualising identity. Assemblage theory permitted an exploration of how an identity comes to be assembled and embodied through a mother’s relationality with the social world around her as opposed to merely exploring identity as a static entity of a fixed, organic whole as has predominantly been done previously. Assemblage theory is premised upon understanding processes of becoming as opposed to states of being and as such takes a machinic approach to understanding wholes. Rather than being organic totalities, they are conceptualised as being transient and fluid entities comprising an amalgamation of inter- changeable components which collectively stabilise to make up the whole. At times of change, an individual’s ties to an identity undergo deterritorialisation, or weaken, as their sense of self and identity readjusts before then experiencing reterritorialisation once they (re)established their ties to a new identity or role. By conceptualising the mothers as assemblages in this manner, it became possible to understand how the women reconstructed their selves and identities through the situated practices and experiences in their everyday lives as they established ties to their new role as a mother.

Methodology/approach – Results are presented from biographical narrative interviews with 10 mothers each at different stages in motherhood. The inter- views focussed on inducing uninterrupted narratives detailing the lived experiences of these women as they transitioned into and across motherhood. These interviews highlighted key stages in the transition into motherhood where a woman’s identity and sense of self would become destabilised and reformulated as a result of changes in her everyday lived experiences and routines.

Findings – Transitioning into motherhood proved to be a multifaceted pro- cess that comprises numerous stages where the new mothers identities would become unstable and deterritorialise as they faced new routines in their everyday life as they became a mother and settled into the role. Four dominant themes emerged during data analysis; emotional turmoil, the reconstruction of relationships, getting comfortable with their baby as well as rediscovering the self. The women largely experienced emotional turmoil as their identities became deterritorialised and reported that the relationships they held with others around them often changed or broke down entirely. It was not until they became comfortable with their baby and their role as a mother that they were able to rediscover their ‘self’ beyond simply being a mother. Once they reached this stage in the transition their identity was able to reterritorialise, becoming more stable as a result.

Originality/Value – This study not only presents an innovative method for conceptualising identity but also demonstrates the value of assemblage theory for conceptualising identity formulation and capturing the fluid and emergent nature of such processes. It demonstrates how assemblage theory can be utilised to further understandings of the multifaceted and ongoing nature of life course transitions. This study sheds light on the potential for assemblage theory to be utilised across a range of sociological topics relating to identity formulation, with such studies having the potential to really broaden the scope of sociological understandings of identity formation and life course transitions.

Keywords: assemblage theory; motherhood; transition; emergence; first- time mother; social roles; deterritorialisation; reterritorialisation; identity

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Depositing User: Samantha Reveley


Item ID: 11164
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ISBN: 9781838670672
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ORCID for Samantha Reveley: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2019 13:53
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2022 03:30


Author: Samantha Reveley ORCID iD

University Divisions

Faculty of Education and Society > School of Social Sciences


Social Sciences > Sociology

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