Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This flexible method study was undertaken to explore the role of consumerism in facilitating women's transition to motherhood. It was informed by 12 women who were expecting their first child and in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Participants were volunteers from the Boston area who agreed to be interviewed about their experience of the transition to motherhood. The results indicate that women felt acquiring items for use with their babies served several functions. Specifically, women reported an increased sense of realness regarding the impending birth; feeling more prepared in advance of the baby's arrival; a sense of relief and greater calm in response to feeling more prepared for the baby; and a sense of control during a transition which otherwise leaves women feeling less influence than usual over the course of their lives. The research also identified eight factors which were present in different combinations in women who demonstrated an ability to resist the social norms of consumerism during the transition. These women still engaged in consumerism, but participated in ways that satisfied their unique situation. The eight factors fall within the three broad categories of social support, independent thinking, and resources. The eight factors identified are: social support from peers, constructive husband involvement, comfort and practice transgressing social norms, recognition of a range of normal reactions and ways to give care, critical thinking skills, financial resources, family support, and formal education or experience in fields relevant to children. The study also identified characteristics shared by the participants who did not challenge notions of mainstream consumerism. These women expressed their belief that they felt less connected to their children-to-be than they perceived other pregnant women to feel. For these women consumerism was described in an obligatory way, without an expression of agency with regard to how they wanted to navigate consumer pressures. Based on the study's findings, the final chapter suggests mental health interventions in the form of professionally facilitated prenatal groups with the goal of increasing social support and independent thinking for pregnant women.


iii, 74 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2007. Includes bibliographical references (p. 62-64)