Date of Award

May 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Jennifer Peterson

Committee Members

Erik Timmerman, Hayeon Song, Barbara Ley, Sarah Morgan


Dialectical Perspective, Motherhood, Online Community, Tensions, Transition to Motherhood


This study presents a grounded theory of the tensions that exist in the transition to motherhood. More specifically, this study investigated both the tensions that emerged within interactions in online communities as well as the communicative practices community members used to manage tensions. Using a qualitative grounded theory approach, interactions from an online community were analyzed. Results from this study suggest that new mothers use online communities to communicate about challenges around the transition to motherhood, highlighting tensions around (a) expertise and experiences, (b) mother-led and baby-led practices, and (c) expectations and experience. Community members develop a range of communicative strategies to make sense of these tensions. Finding suggest two significant directions for research on studying online mothering communities: (a) the importance of examining underlying communication processes and (b) examining the nature of tensions that arise in these communities to understand the role online community plays in the lives of new mothers. As expectations for motherhood continue to change and as mothers increasingly turn to the Internet for seeking information and community, research needs to continue to devote attention to understanding the importance of this community during the transition to motherhood.

Included in

Communication Commons