Band of mothers: Childbirth as a female bonding experience

Tara Tasuji, Elaine Reese, Valerie van Mulukom, Harvey Whitehouse

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Abstract

Does the experience of childbirth create social bonds among first-time mothers? Previous research suggests that sharing emotionally intense or painful experiences with others leads to “identity fusion,” a visceral feeling of oneness with a group that predicts strong forms of prosocial action and self-sacrifice for other group members. This study compared identity fusion with other mothers during pregnancy versus after childbirth in a sample of 164 U.S. women. Eighty-nine mothers in our sample were pregnant with their firstborn, and 75 mothers had given birth to their firstborn up to 6 months prior to the time of data collection. Results demonstrated that identity fusion with other mothers was higher for postpartum mothers than for antenatal mothers. As predicted, among postpartum mothers, those who thought that their childbirth was more painful than a typical childbirth experience reported greater identity fusion with mothers who reported having had a very difficult birth. Postpartum mothers’ ruminative thought about the birth mediated the association between level of dysphoria and identity fusion, and identity fusion moderated the association between postpartum mothers’ ruminative and reflective thought about the birth and their posttraumatic growth in complex ways. These findings provide evidence that perceived sharedness of the childbirth experience and thoughts about the birth are important to the process of identity fusion with other mothers, and highlight the importance of post-event processing for psychological health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0240175
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume15
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright: © 2020 Tasuji et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Keywords

  • identity fusion
  • childbirth
  • bonding
  • dysphoria
  • post-traumatic growth
  • post-traumatic stress
  • identity

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