My research project
A qualitative exploration of the process of relationship formation between mother and child in interracial families
I completed a qualitative research project with mothers of mixed race children exploring the process of relationship formation between mother and child. I was particularly interested in whether the racial differences between mother and child would affect their experience of 'claiming' and forming a relationship with their child.
I interviewed nine white European women in interracial relationships with at least once child under the age of 4. I analysed the data using thematic analysis which helped me generate four themes: 1) anticipated lack of resemblance 2) making the child known to you 3) challenges faced by the family 4) creating a multifaceted identity. The women anticipated a lack of resemblance between themselves and their baby. This could have served to affect the ‘claiming’ and relationship formation processes. However, the women actively searched for similarities between themselves and their baby which aided the ‘claiming’ process. This, in combination with other factors, helped the women begin to form a relationship with their baby. The women also identified a wide range of challenges they faced as an interracial family. In response to these challenges, they identified a range of strategies to overcome these challenges and create a multifaceted family identity as a way of protecting against the challenges they faced.
Therefore, whilst mothers were fearful about the possible impact of the racial differences between themselves and their child they did not appear to affect the process of relationship formation and ‘claiming’. The active processes such as searching for similarities between themselves and their baby appeared to be protective and facilitate the ‘claiming’ and relationship formation processes.
The findings have wide ranging clinical implications and are of relevance to health care professionals working with interracial families, particularly during the perinatal period. They are of particular relevance for women experiencing factors known to affect the process of ‘claiming’, identification and relationship formation, such as mental health problems or social isolation.
This is novel research as no one has researched the process of relationship formation in interracial families and the possible impact racial difference between mother and child may have on this process. Furthermore, the research contributes to a growing body of research that documents the unique needs and challenges faced by interracial families.