'What about us?' How might first time parents negotiate the realities of parenting multiples during the first five years?

This research aims to contribute to the study of family practices by investigating the everyday realities encountered by multiple birth parents and the resources on which they may draw in helping manage these. It seeks to understand how first-time mothers and fathers manage the transition, any difficulties they encounter, including tensions, along with sources of enjoyment as they negotiate their identities as parents of multiples.

Adopting a qualitative approach ten couples who are first time parents of twins or higher order multiples have been recruited to the study, with data being generated through the use of in-depth joint and individual interviews, taking place over two phases. Other techniques, such as network diagrams, timeline diagrams and participant generated photographs have also been employed to further elicit different types of data.

Parents’ accounts of the pressures on multiple birth parenting and their understanding of what is involved in trying to meet contemporary parenting ideals are being explored. Multiple birth parenting brings with it discursive and practical dilemmas, where both professional and popular experts can provide support, as can family and friends.  But, this can also have the potential to undermine parents’ own expertise.

My research examines the practices they use in responding to the needs of their multiples and asks how advice and support may contribute to the development of their self-confidence and identities. Rather than examining mothers and fathers in isolation, the research asks how partners together manage ‘ideals’ of shared parenting and how their identities as first time parents of multiples develops during the first five years.

Research team

  • Laura Maguire PhD Student/GRTAa
  • Supervisor: Professor Merryl E Harvey
  • Supervisor: Emeritus Professor Elaine Denny

An exploratory study of health visitor experiences supporting multiple birth families

An exploratory qualitative study is being undertaken to investigate the nature and extent of any education and professional development that health visitors have received about supporting families with twins, triplets and higher order multiples and their experiences of supporting multiple birth families in practice. Focus groups and telephone interviews are being undertaken with health visitors working in the West Midlands.

The findings will inform a subsequent large-scale survey of health visitor experiences of working with multiple birth families in the UK. This in turn will provide evidence of health visitor experiences, perceptions and education and professional development needs regarding multiple birth families.

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Research team: 

  • Merryl Harvey, co-lead Elizabeth Bryan Multiple Births Centre
  • Jane Denton, co-lead Elizabeth Bryan Multiple Births Centre
  • Lara Alamad, Research Assistant, Department of Children’s and Young People’s Health