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 concluded in 2018.

People’s stories were used to create a Healthtalk Australia online resource aimed at supporting expecting and new parents and their families, and informing health practitioners 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.

Interview data was also used as the basis for an interdisciplinary edited collection titled Paths to Parenthood: Emotions on the Journey through Pregnancy, Childbirth and Early Parenting, published in 2018 by Palgrave Macmillan, and launched in early 2019.

Importantly, both ‘Paths to Parenthood’ and 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, they reveal the many similarities as well as the differences among expecting and new parents in Australia today. 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)
  • Dr Ruth McNair, Academic GP
  • Suzanne McNaught, Maternal and Child Health Nurse
  • Jennifer Peggie
  • Dr Meredith Stone, psychiatrist
  • Dr Melanie Strang, GP
  • Elly Taylor
  • Megan Wong (Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health)
  • Dianne Zalitis (Healthdirect Australia)

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Emotions and Wellbeing over the Perinatal Period – a book launch and roundtable

Supported by the Social and Global Studies Centre, the Social Research in Health program held a two-part event on Thursday 28 February to showcase the program’s research outputs from their Healthdirect Australia-funded project Emotional Experiences in Early Parenthood of Australian Families.

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