An exploration of the emotional experiences of becoming a parent in Australia, from conception through to early parenthood, in all kinds of families.

  • Project dates: 2017
  • Grants and funding: Healthdirect Australia

The Emotional Experiences of Early Parenthood in Australian Families project contributes to understanding how new parents and their partners might best emotionally adjust to pregnancy and early parenthood, and how and by whom they might be best supported. A total of 48 parents (38 women and 10 men) from a wide range of backgrounds and family arrangements participated in narrative interviews, recorded on film or audio, about their experiences. The project run froms 2013 until 2018.

People’s stories were used to create a rich online resource aimed at supporting expecting and new parents and their families, and informing health professional and policy makers. People reflected on their first thoughts about having children, experiences of conception and pregnancy (including surrogacy and IVF), miscarriage, premature birth or loss of a baby, perinatal depression and anxiety, labour and birth, feeding and settling, and the impact of becoming a parent on close relationships and self-identity.

Importantly, the online resource acknowledges the diversity of families in Australia today, giving voice to the experiences of both single and partnered parents, people who became parents through IVF, surrogacy and adoption, parents of large and small families, younger and older parents, parents from migrant backgrounds, gay and lesbian parents, and more. In so doing, it reveals the many similarities as well as the differences that people experience as they become parents in Australia today.

Finally, our research also contributes to debates about perinatal distress that extend beyond clinical diagnostic criteria to examine the contextual features of individual lives that make the transition to parenthood easier or more challenging.

Key People


Professor Renata Kokanovic

Professor Renata Kokanovic

Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow

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Research Team

Reference Group

  • Andrew Betts
  • Rita Butera (Women’s Health Victoria)
  • Monica Dux
  • Sam Everingham (Surrogacy Australia)
  • Belinda Horton (PANDA)
  • Professor Kate Hunt (University of Glasgow, UK)
  • Joyce Jiang (Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health)
  • Lindy Marlow (Victorian Refugee Health Network)
  • Dr Ruth McNair, Academic GP
  • Suzanne McNaught, Maternal and Child Health Nurse
  • Jennifer Peggie
  • Dr Leone Piggford, GP
  • Dr Meredith Stone, psychiatrist
  • Dr Melanie Strang, GP
  • Elly Taylor
  • Clare Shann (Movember)
  • Megan Wong (Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health)
  • Dianne Zalitis (Healthdirect Australia)

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