Liminal Parenthood: A Qualitative Inquiry into The Work-Family Experiences and Evolving Self-Concepts of Lone Parents and Blended Families

Schaefer, Anneke ORCID: 0000-0002-3967-1667
(2021) Liminal Parenthood: A Qualitative Inquiry into The Work-Family Experiences and Evolving Self-Concepts of Lone Parents and Blended Families. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis explores the interplay of non-work and work identities in times of transition and seeks to explain why the outcomes of such identity transitions can be so diverse. I do so by focusing on non-traditional transitions to and within parenthood so as to illustrate the complexity of modern family life and to demonstrate how such parenthood transitions can trigger a change to both, individuals’ sense of selves as parents and workers. The transition to parenthood has been acknowledged as having major significance for individual’s life courses. Work-family scholars have explored how individuals make sense of their transition to parenthood, and how this shapes their relationship to paid work (e.g. Ladge, Clair and Greenberg, 2012; Ladge and Greenberg, 2015; Gatrell, 2013; Humberd, Ladge and Harrington, 2015). However, the vast majority of such studies are constrained to traditional transitions to parenthood, i.e. becoming a parent through pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore, work-family research, and organisational policy and practice based upon such research, still treat family as a stable concept (Gatrell et al., 2015). My study seeks to redress this imbalance in work-family scholarship by focusing on non-traditional transitions to (and within) parenthood, specifically becoming a lone parent, repartnering and living in a blended family, and becoming a stepparent. All these parenthood transitions are increasingly common in the Western world but are hardly represented in organisational research (Schaefer, Radcliffe and Gatrell, 2020). My research shows that the work-family experiences of families in transition are marked by assumptions that families are likely to be stable entities with parents usually in intact, heterosexual relationships. I demonstrate how lone parents, repartnered parents and stepparents struggle to build new parent-worker identities when going through parenthood transitions such as divorce/separation and re-partnering due the influence of gendered parenting scripts and a perceived lack of organisational and social support. My study contributes to theory by showing how this lack of support and guidance leads to some individuals living in a liminal state in which they have neither fully let go of their old parent-worker identity nor were able to construct a new identity due to the aforementioned tensions. The uncertainty and powerlessness of being in a prolonged liminal state can have far-reaching implications not only for the individual but also their organisations. Practical recommendations are made for organisational policy and practice to enable individuals who have undergone a parenthood transition to construct a new, coherent parent-worker identity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Management
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2021 15:57
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:35
DOI: 10.17638/03130166