Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Making sense of ‘best start’ : exploring the early experiences of mothers in low-socioeconomic areas

Miles, Hannah Bethan


Hannah Bethan Miles


Julie Jomeen


The central concern of this thesis is to better understand how mothers in low- socioeconomic areas, in a city in the north of England experience early mothering. It is particularly interested in broadening understandings of how these lived experiences play out in the cultural context of mothers’ everyday lives, as mothers strive to provide the ‘best start’ for their children, and the social expectations that surround such a concept. It is therefore a goal of this thesis to examine the broad societal assumptions that surround mothering, its values and expectations. This thesis aims to achieve this by exploring what the ‘best start’ means to mothers in the context of their everyday lives, with particular focus upon how these early experiences intersect to both inform, and shape early mothering.
Exploratory and interpretive in nature, this qualitative research draws upon ten-months of ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation in parent and child groups, supported by 45 in-depth interviews with 33 mothers.
The findings from this research offers principal conclusions that have resonance for understanding the ways in which early experiences shape motherhood. Firstly, this thesis shows how empowering relationships and interactions with health care professional’s is key in shaping positive early mothering experiences. Secondly, while some mothers find early mothering a rewarding experience, others felt overwhelmed. These feelings were often combined with intense pressure to conform to dominant expectations, that insist on locating mothering as innate and natural. Mothers’ reported feelings of guilt and failure when experiences did not live up to the ideal, and this had a detrimental impact on maternal well-being. Thirdly, for those undertaking mothering in ‘marked-places’ like social-housing estates, they have the additional burden of negotiating stigma and the prevailing stereotypes that surround mothering in such places. Finally, findings demonstrate that having access to supportive parent and child groups is key in establishing support networks; however, these groups must reflect and meet local needs. Importantly, this thesis reveals the ways in which mothers actively negotiate, navigate, resist and at times reproduce dominant discourses on mothering.


Miles, H. B. (2022). Making sense of ‘best start’ : exploring the early experiences of mothers in low-socioeconomic areas. (Thesis). Hull York Medical School, the University of Hull and the University of York. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 10, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 24, 2023
Keywords Medicine; Human sciences
Public URL
Additional Information Hull York Medical School, The University of Hull and the University of York
Award Date Jan 1, 2022


Thesis (1.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2022 Miles, Hannah Bethan. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations