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Elastic mothering: a psychosocial study of maternal trajectories in Colombia

Concha Arango, Natalia (2018) Elastic mothering: a psychosocial study of maternal trajectories in Colombia. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis discusses maternal trajectories in the urban periphery of Cali, Colombia. Drawing on a psychosocial and sociocultural framework, it explores 1) the role of the emerging mother-infant relation as a means of support for redefining life trajectories; 2) the adaptability of families enacted through cultural local practices as responses to contextual adversity; and 3) the ways in which local health provision impacts the maternal experience. The research comprises a pre-birth (T1) and post-birth (T2) qualitative longitudinal design, with women in their teenaged years are early twenties, grandmothers and community/public stakeholders who were interviewed individually and in groups. Conceptually, the design moves from the self to the extended family, community and institutions. Study 1 explores maternal trajectories through the voices of pregnant women and their mothers ('mamitas') focusing on how they move from pregnancy to mothering. Study 2 extends into an investigation of community life exploring resources and scaffoldings available in an adverse violent context. The final study looks at the community's local knowledge as it interacts with the prescriptions of the health institution, from the hospital (focusing on maternal and infant health) to the home (with post-birth cultural practices). Findings suggest mothering is elastic, reflecting movement between positionings at different temporalities (mothering-pregnancy-infancy-lifelong mothering) and spaces (home community-institutions). Mothering does not only entail disruption, but can enable the re-writing of life trajectories away from risky behaviours, i.e., substance misuse, gang involvement, mental health difficulties. The thesis demonstrates how kinship relations adapt and reconfigure based on support structures, positionings and cultural practices. The research builds on the explanatory power of psychosocial scaffoldings by uncovering ways to expand the notion with: a) elastic mothering; b) linking it with trust-distrust dynamics and c) by enabling reparation through cultural practices. Although local practices serve as another case of resistance against heteronormativity, they show how maternal support and childcare remain highly gendered in the Colombian urban periphery. Overall, the thesis argues for incorporating feminist informed psychological approaches to sociocultural psychology, and emphasises the need to incorporate more research from the Global South. It calls for re-framing interventions to inform maternal health policy so that a) mothers who are young or suffer poverty are treated as psychological subjects b) grandmothers are included in the implementation of community-based maternal health work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Natalia Concha Arango
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Jovchelovitch, Sandra

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