Title of ArticlePhD trials and parenthood tribulations: adopting a person-centred approach to support the ticking of two clocks
Type of ArticleIdeas and Influences
Author/sAlison Kelly
ReferenceVolume 13, Issue 1, Article 10
Date of PublicationMay 2023
KeywordsAcademia, doctoral student mothers, motherhood, person-centred culture, PhD

Women who are trying to carry out doctoral studies and build a career may find this time overlaps with their biologically optimal reproductive years. The assumption that this should oblige women to prioritise one or the other needs to be challenged and a person-centred approach adopted for students wishing to start a family during their PhD studies. Challenging this binaristic premise and taking person-centred approaches to support doctoral student mothers can help to encourage further women of childbearing age to undertake doctoral research training. Person-centredness is defined by McCormack and McCance (2017, p 3) as:

‘…an approach to practice established through the formation and fostering of healthful relationships between all care providers, service users and others significant to them in their lives. It is underpinned by values of respect for persons, individual right to self-determination, mutual respect and understanding. It is enabled by practice development.’

Research has shown that the ability of women to balance work and family responsibilities is a significant determinant of their ability to advance academically (Thanacoody et al., 2009). Studies have also demonstrated that women take longer than men to complete doctoral programmes and experience a lower publication rate compared with men as a result of family obligations (Velander et al., 2021). Equally, it has been shown that starting a family during academic studies can negatively affect women’s careers but not men’s (Acker and Webber, 2017). Combining motherhood and academic work within higher education has long been discussed and these discrepancies are significant when it comes to women developing research careers. So we need to ask, how can we adopt person-centred approaches to support doctoral student mothers in completing their PhD research and its associated publications as well as successfully navigating motherhood?

This article by Alison Kelly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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