The crying-baby phenomenon : a personal construct perspective : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University

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Massey University
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The major objective of the present study was to investigate the use of the 'personal profile method' as a means of providing support for mothers who report that their infants cry a great deal. The method was developed within the framework of Kelly's Personal Construct Theory and was adapted from the Repertory Grid Technique. A mother who had reported infant crying is called 'cry-hassled' in this study. The personal profile method highlights those areas a cry-hassled mother perceives as concerns and uses the identification of the concerns as a means of providing her with assistance when she is dealing with infant crying. A secondary objective was to examine three features that might contribute to a mother becoming cry-hassled. These were the mother's report of her pregnancy and delivery, what she had expected it would be like caring for her infant at home, and if she felt she knew what her infant's cries meant. Seven cry-hassled mothers completed a personal profile each week with two further data sources (infant profiles and diary forms) for a minimum period of 4 weeks. During the development of the personal profile procedures, two broad categories of elicited elements (called concerns because of their negative ratings) were defined. These were designated general and local concerns according to the extent of their negative ratings. The data from the first study demonstrated that the infant's crying was a concern for each cry-hassled mother, and as such was classified as the priority concern. Two further types of concern which emerged were primary concerns (items that the mother perceived even more negatively than infant crying), and auxiliary concerns (items that the mother perceived in a way similar to her most negative concerns). The primary and auxiliary concerns are useful concepts in that they appear to assist in identifying ways in which a mother can lessen her feelings of concern about infant crying, and so have a greater sense of control. The secondary study objective was investigated by examining the information from each of the cry-hassled mothers about her pregnancy and confinement, her expectations about being at home with her infant, and her understanding of the infant's cries, together with information from seven mothers who had not reported their infants as crying excessively. The results indicated that a mother who reports her infant as crying may have unrealistic expectations of her infant's behaviour, that she may lack experience through insufficient contact with other infants, and finally, a cry-hassled mother may understand her infant's cries at a time later than a mother who has not expressed concern about infant crying. An analysis of the findings from both study objectives reveals the 'Crying-Baby Phenomenon', namely, cry-hassled mothers who appear to perceive crying as a stable/internal characteristic of the infant rather than the crying being something the infant does on some specific occasions. In personal construct terms, it appears the personal profile method may help a mother to shift from a pre-emptive mode of construing her infant to a propositional mode.
Infant crying, Mothers