The relationship between social support and parent identity in community playgroups

Author: Cris Townley1
View author details View Less
  • 1 University of New South Wales, , Australia
Full Access
Get eTOC alerts
Rights and permissions Cite this article

Community playgroups are member-run parenting groups in Australia, aligned with early childhood services. Parents and carers meet weekly with their babies, toddlers and preschool children. Through interviews with mothers who attend community playgroups, I find that these playgroups are important sites of social support for parents. Social support is interwoven with parental and family identity, and the shift in identity when becoming a parent. This is demonstrated through three themes: making a connection, shared practices and language, and judgement and respect. Parents seek out a playgroup in which to belong, where they feel included and respected. These findings can inform the creation and operation of parenting groups.

Abstract

Community playgroups are member-run parenting groups in Australia, aligned with early childhood services. Parents and carers meet weekly with their babies, toddlers and preschool children. Through interviews with mothers who attend community playgroups, I find that these playgroups are important sites of social support for parents. Social support is interwoven with parental and family identity, and the shift in identity when becoming a parent. This is demonstrated through three themes: making a connection, shared practices and language, and judgement and respect. Parents seek out a playgroup in which to belong, where they feel included and respected. These findings can inform the creation and operation of parenting groups.

Introduction

Becoming a parent of a baby or toddler is often an exciting, but challenging time. Many new parents are sleep deprived, and on a steep learning curve. Participation in a network of other parents who are going through similar experiences is, for many, an important source of support. In this article I examine community playgroups as sites of social support for parents through friendships and advice, and investigate how parental identity is interwoven with these experiences of social support. I present my analysis of what playgroups mean to parents, how a sense of belonging is engendered for some families, while others are excluded, and how different dimensions of parents’ situational identities are salient in certain contexts.

In Australia, community playgroups are groups of parents who meet together once a week for two hours, together with their babies and children under school age (McLean et al, 2020). They meet to socialise with each other, and their children can play and interact with other children (Sincovich et al, 2014). Community playgroups are organised by the attending parents, with some support from the representative body for playgroups in their state or territory, particularly in relation to insurance, advice and finding an appropriate playgroup (Playgroup Australia, 2022). Community playgroups have been an important element of the early childhood education and care landscape in Australia since the 1970s (Townley, 2018).

Community playgroups do not have a facilitator who is employed to organise and lead the playgroup. Instead, volunteer members work together to organise a venue, toys and activities such as singing or craft. This is in contrast to supported playgroups, which are usually targeted to groups considered vulnerable in some way or areas of locational disadvantage, where funding is available to employ a facilitator for the playgroup (Townley, 2021). It is well documented that supported playgroups are a source of social support for parents (Jackson, 2011), but less well understood how community playgroups operate as sites of social support for parents (McLean et al, 2020). This article explores how social support for parents operates in community playgroups, arguing that parental identity is inseparable from experiences of social support.

Social support in parenting

Social support in parenting is important because becoming a parent often means that established friendship patterns are disrupted (Bailey, 1999), so parents seek out friendships with others with young children. These friendships provide social support through emotional support and advice (Edwards and Gillies, 2004). Since becoming a parent involves learning how to parent, a supportive network of others who can give advice equips parents with the skills and resources to parent well, leading to better outcomes for children (Geens and Vandenbroeck, 2014). Social support networks can be accessed in formal, semi-formal or informal settings (Ghate and Hazel, 2004), and both face-to-face and online (Doty and Dworkin, 2014). Parents navigate the dominant discourse of intensive mothering (Hays, 1996), where the ideal of the ‘good mother’ is impossible to achieve, which can lead to feelings of shame and guilt (Sutherland, 2010). Parents benefit from having social support to navigate this discourse. Similar to community playgroups, grassroots mothers’ groups have been identified as places where mothers find social support (Mulcahy et al, 2010; Williams Veazey 2019). However, Mulcahy et al (2010) also identified that mothers’ groups reinforce heteronormativity, and result in some mothers being excluded or judged. In addition, parenting styles can become tribalised, creating conflict among groups of mothers (Faircloth, 2014)

Becoming a mother is a shift in identity for many women (Bailey, 1999; Smith, 1999), and this identity shift is sometimes an important consideration in the decision as to whether to attend playgroup (Harman et al, 2014). Some parents are uncomfortable at playgroup because they feel different (Gibson et al, 2015), and families with a language background other than English are less likely to attend (Gregory et al, 2016). My findings help explain why this is so, and offer insights into the choices parents make to navigate these obstacles to finding social support in parenting. Identity is interwoven with cultural practice and relationships (Wetherell, 2009), including parenting identity (Thomson et al, 2009). Despite this, little is known about how identity affects accessing social support at playgroup. This article explores the relationship between identity and participating in social support at playgroup, and seeks to understand how more mothers and their young children could be included in parenting groups such as community playgroups.

Identity and intersectionality

Intersectionality is the theoretical and methodological approach taken to examine the processes of inclusion, exclusion and belonging that operate through the complexity of identities, categories and power (Crenshaw, 1991). The theoretical tools of intersectionality allow us to understand feelings of inclusion, belonging, welcome, discomfort and exclusion, to address categories of difference and explore their impact, and to consider the policy implications of supporting inclusion.

Although intersectionality is not a theory of identity per se (Crenshaw, 1991), it is described by Shields (2008: 301) as ‘the mutually constitutive relations among social identities’. A conceptualisation of identity as constructed and multiple (Bedolla, 2007) is fundamental to the intersectional approach of this research. Family and parent identity is not unitary but multiple (Hames-Garcia, 2011), constituted through multiple influences and situational identities (Wetherell, 2009). Depending on their intersectional position, different people will have different experiences of, in this case, playgroups and inclusion in parenting networks.

The study

The research question driving this work is: how are family and parenting identities related to mothers’ inclusion in community playgroups in Australia? I answer this by analysing mothers’ experiences of, and intentions about, their participation in community playgroups for social support.

In order to understand mothers’ experiences and choices, I conducted qualitative interviews with 18 mothers who took their children to one of four community playgroup research sites. The community playgroups were purposively selected from the playgroup database of a state playgroup organisation. The playgroup organisation approached the playgroup coordinators for permission for me to visit the playgroup to recruit participants. Two, Tiny Tots and Parklands,1 were location-based playgroups open to all families in the neighbourhood, in suburban areas of the city that were in the lowest two deciles of socioeconomic advantage. One, the Japanese playgroup, was for Japanese language speakers, selected because Japanese playgroups were the most common type of identity-based playgroup in the database. The fourth, the Rainbow playgroup, was for LGBTQ families, selected because an Australian Government postal survey on same-sex marriage was at the time a matter of public debate, underscoring the need for social support in LGBTQ communities (Verrelli et al, 2019). There were five participants from each Tiny Tots and the LGBTQ playgroup, six from Parklands, and two from the Japanese playgroup.

Data were gathered through one-hour, semi-structured interviews that were guided by a set of questions, in order to follow the flow of the interviewee, and prompt and steer as required (Bourdieu, 1999; Ezzy, 2010). The questions covered the mothers’ motivations for coming to playgroup, such as Why do you come to this playgroup?. Identity was explored through questions such as Tell me about your family; What kinds of things do you think you have in common with the people at playgroup?; and What kinds of things make you different from the other people at playgroup?. Experiences of exclusion were approached through asking Sometimes people can find it hard to fit in to a group like this; can you tell me about a time where someone didn’t fit in, or felt unwelcome, or perhaps even stopped coming?.

I drew on my identity as a mother, who had taken her children to community playgroups a few years earlier, to build rapport with all interviewees, and my identity as a lesbian mother to build rapport with the Rainbow Playgroup participants. I had not attended any of the playgroup research sites. Ethics approval for this research was obtained from the University of New South Wales. Although I did not deliberately set out to interview only mothers, all interviewees were mothers. This may be because men are less engaged with parenting groups (Brooks and Hodkinson, 2020).

The interviews were transcribed and analysed using NVIVO software. I used a number of approaches to build different sets of themes over the period of analysis, both inductive and deductive, particularly reflexive thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2019). The process of writing was also useful to sort through meanings and complexities, refining the analysis each time (Richardson, 2000; Neale, 2016). The analysis is presented here through three themes: making a connection, shared practices and language, and judgement and respect. These themes were present in all four playgroups. Due to the small number of interviewees at each playgroup, no analysis has been undertaken at the level of comparing playgroups.

Making a connection

Becoming a parent was a big shift in identity for most interviewees. Many mothers spoke about how their lives had changed on becoming parents. “I got pregnant literally after we came back from the honeymoon. And then everything changed” (Zara, Parklands). Central to these changes were that many parents did not spend time with the same people that they had before having children; their social networks were reconfigured. Eleni (Tiny Tots) described how, prior to having children, she used to socialise with the people at work who had no children. Since having her children she socialises with different people, during the day instead of at night, at places that are child friendly. Clare was in a similar position, saying “all my communication now is with other mums or more family” (Clare, Tiny Tots). Clare then adds “I reconnect with other people who had kids before me, that I knew distantly.” Because they now have children, these new parents see much less of their previous friends and have had to seek out connections to other parents through family, work and distant acquaintances.

Many parents turned to a community playgroup to seek new connections to fill the gap created when their paths diverged from those of their existing friends. Rebecca (Parklands) reflected that playgroup had been a “godsend” for breaking down the “social isolation”, a consequence of moving from interstate, commuting to work for a number of years before having children, and not having an existing local social network of parents. Clare’s reason for beginning to go to playgroup was that she “was just looking for someone to connect with” (Clare, Tiny Tots). Kate, who had postnatal depression after her first child was born, described it this way:

‘When you’re a parent and either not working or not working much, sometimes you just get so immersed in your own little life with these little screamy children, or even their amazing moments, it’s just so nice when someone else can say “Yes, I get it.”’ (Kate, Rainbow)

Here, the shared experience of being parents of young children creates a basis for connection, and playgroup is one place parents go to find this connection as a basis for friendship.

In addition to the shared connection of having children, parents make choices about which playgroup to attend based on something they think they will have in common with other parents. For Anna, a Japanese migrant to Australia, a connection was possible when other parents expressed an interest in Japan. She told me that “I don’t have much friends [at my elder child’s school], but if some of them are interested in Japan – you know, culture, ‘Only one country I want to go is Japan’ – then we get along” (Anna, Japanese playgroup). Anna sought familiar Japanese language and Japanese cultural space, a common experience for Japanese migrant women in Australia (Takeda, 2013). A Japanese-speaking playgroup gave her the opportunity to form friendships more easily. For Anna, her language and culture identities are the primary point of connection with other parents. At playgroup, tips were exchanged about which shops sell Japanese products, recipes for food dishes, or where to find a good dentist. Playgroup was a place for her to find these culturally Japanese connections and friendships.

Often, where people chose to attend an identity-based playgroup, they believed, based on experience or expectation, that they would not belong in the local playgroup. Kayla explained why she chose to attend a playgroup for LGBTQ parents.

‘When you say “Oh, my partner,” [to strangers], I think they just assume it’s a guy. But they’re so lovely [at the Rainbow playgroup] … I didn’t expect that I would click with most of them as well as I have.’ (Kayla, Rainbow)

The reason for not feeling like they could belong was that they felt different from others in some way. They didn’t want to have to explain this difference over and over again, and looked for a playgroup of people like themselves, based on this identity. Kayla found that the shared identity created a sense of connection.

Friendship can be difficult to find for a new parent. In contrast to the difficulties parents found in building friendships for themselves or their children at the library or in the park, the structure of playgroups made developing friendships possible. Emma described how she also took her children to activities other than playgroup each week. They went to the local Leagues Club2 on Tuesdays, because there were activities for children, a play area and a restaurant. On Wednesdays her elder child attended daycare, and on Thursdays they went to ‘toddler time’ organised by the local library. However, she felt that “the playgroup […] is the only group I’m part of, as such” (Emma, Parklands). She explained that only there did she see the same people each week, feel welcomed, and talk to people. At the other activities she mentioned, “generally people tend to go with friends and stuff and tend to stick to themselves a bit. So, you wouldn’t want to have social anxiety with a toddler” (Emma, Parklands). Although Emma took her children to a number of places each week where she might meet other adults, it was only in the playgroup environment where she was building ongoing relationships.

There can be challenges to initiating these relationships. The central friendship groups in a playgroup can be perceived as “cliquey” (Laura, Rainbow). Mothers who had been at the playgroup longer were more likely to have embedded networks in the playgroup, and in many cases these networks extended to socialising together outside the group. Conversely, many people who were starting to attend playgroup had few connections and existing friendships with other parents. Established members are often aware that strong central friendships may make it difficult for new members to join the group. Sophie describes the core of the playgroup as comprising two groups: “I’ve noticed as time has gone on that the group of ladies has split some ways, and some are closer than others” (Sophie, Tiny Tots). Although she believed that the core groups were respectful, friendly and kind to others, Sophie was concerned that the existence of cliques at playgroup could exclude people from participating.

It is likely that despite an intent on the part of existing members to be welcoming, some newcomers might have felt excluded by the group dynamic. Clare spoke about how it felt as a new member in the group, recalling that “initially when I came, because there was that core group, sometimes there was a tendency to feel like an outsider of that, no matter how much people tried” (Clare, Tiny Tots). Clare did continue to attend the Tiny Tots playgroup, despite never feeling that she fully belonged within the cliques. Why she continued to attend was the connection she made with Lia. This connection was created by a conversation about Clare’s child’s name. Clare’s child has a Muslim name and is being raised as a Muslim, and Lia is also Muslim. Discovering that they shared an aspect of minority identity in a wider group made them feel comfortable, because of their connection with each other. In this way, having a connection with just one other person at playgroup can be enough for a parent to feel that they can belong in the wider playgroup.

Shared practices and language

A significant aspect of becoming a parent is learning how to parent. For many mothers, playgroup was important for this learning, either because they had no family living nearby or no friends with children, both of whom are trusted sources of parenting advice (Edwards and Gillies, 2004). For example, Elizabeth (Tiny Tots) said “I didn’t have any friends or any family that had children”; Sophie was an only child and her husband had no close siblings; and Lia, Emma and Anna had moved to Australia from other countries. Learning to parent involves making decisions about how to look after a baby and child. New parents learn from others at playgroup:

‘I just thought it was fantastic, and it was an outlet for me. […] I didn’t cope very well – first-time mum, I needed to question myself, to get advice and stuff like that. I found it fantastic, I really, really, did.’ (Kayla, Rainbow)

Rebecca valued meeting people at playgroup who had parenting experience that she could respect, who shared parenting tips, and she would watch, and learn from, their interactions with their children. Practices regarding breastfeeding and bottle-feeding were a recurring theme in the interviews, present at all playgroup sites. Clare explained that “there are some other mums who are doing extended breastfeeding so I learnt a lot from the mums about how they navigated that” (Clare, Tiny Tots). Learning parenting practices was a social process supported by advice on parenting from other playgroup members.

Conversations about specific practices based on a shared identity were a basis for shared connection. Two examples of this arose in the Rainbow playgroup. The first was participation in cultural events. Kate explained that “It’s nice having other things to talk about like Mardi Gras or Rainbow camping.” Second, the topic of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) came up a number of times in the interviews with lesbian parents, and conversations about this practice in the journey to parenthood were common in the playgroup. Developing an identity as a parent is supported at playgroup through acceptance, advice and discussion of specific parenting practices and concerns.

Sharing a language is an important consideration for parents in parenting groups. Like a growing number of women (Mizukami, 2007; Itoh, 2014), Anna had migrated from Japan and had an Australian husband who did not speak Japanese. Like most new parents in Australia, when she had her first child Anna was allocated to a mothers’ group, which she attended for only a few months. Anna’s friendships in the school playground where her elder child attended school were limited. Anna viewed her level of proficiency in English as a barrier to making friends with the Australian mothers, because “Aussie mammas speak rarararara fast” (Anna, Japanese playgroup). This was a significant factor in her choice of a Japanese playgroup. Rosa, whose first language was English, took her children to the Japanese playgroup because her husband was Japanese, and the playgroup was an environment where her children could participate in Japanese language and culture.

Not all parents who are not fluent English speakers avoid an English language playgroup. Lia, whose first language was Indonesian, made a different decision. She also spoke about difficulties in understanding spoken English. “One of the mothers, she speaks really fast, and oh, I couldn’t really understand, I say ‘Ok, yeah, yeah, yeah’ [...]” However, supporting the findings of Oke et al (2007), the benefit of attending outweighed this disadvantage. Lia continued with “[A]part from that, it’s good for me to learn, to learn every day is good” (Lia, Tiny Tots). Lia valued what she could learn about Australian culture, like English language, how to make morning tea, Christian festivals, and, from the parties to which she was invited, “how the White people make birthday for their kids” (Lia, Tiny Tots). Although there was a local Indonesian playgroup, Lia actively chose an English-speaking playgroup, in large part to improve her English and her knowledge of Australian parenting practices.

Amira’s motivations to attend playgroup included her search for a group of parents who saw each other not just at playgroup, but were closely connected socially. She explains:

‘I would like it not just to be a playgroup, where we meet on this day at this time, I’d like it to feel like a community, as if we’re friends. Obviously that’s not going to happen straight away, but I’d like us to feel that we’re connected as parents, and to say “You know what, we are not doing anything Friday evening, let’s all go for dinner together.” […] To find friendships in that playgroup.’ (Amira, Parklands)

Amira is looking for a close-knit community with a group of children of similar age. Her cultural background is Egyptian, and her husband is Lebanese, and these are collectivist cultures (Rudy and Grusec, 2006). Amira has moved away from where her mother lives and therefore she has limited access to her family network, so perhaps this is why she is searching for a close-knit network from a playgroup community. Clare explained that for some families from a collectivist culture, there is less need for social support from a playgroup community because social support is available in the family network. Although Anglo-Australian herself, Clare married a Lebanese Muslim man. Clare was taken to playgroup as a child, but:

‘I know that [my husband] would never have gone to playgroup as a kid. His family is so big, I know, like with his sisters and their kids they are kind of always with each other. They feel like they don’t need to take the kids to playgroup.’ (Clare, Tiny Tots)

Talking about her husband’s family, she said “We definitely see them and we’ve got that great network in a way, but we are not as close as they all are” (Clare, Tiny Tots). Clare was not fully integrated into the collectivist family network, and therefore sought social support from playgroup. She added that, in her experience, access to this collectivist family environment was “definitely changing with this generation” (Clare, Tiny Tots), many of whom do not have a large family nearby to support their parenting. Families with close-knit intergenerational networks may not need to attend playgroup, but these data also indicate that there are families that might expect to have a close familial network available, but do not. In these cases, they might, like Amira, seek out such a network at playgroup.

For Lexi, the identity of being a family that included twins required a particular parenting practice when getting together with other twin families:

‘When you’ve got twins or triplets it’s just a little bit crazier, so we have slightly different needs. […] It doesn’t matter, we’re outnumbered from the get-go – even if you just have twins, if you add older siblings or if you add, you know a good friend of mine has triplets and single son. So when the two of us are together with our seven kids, we’re so outnumbered it’s not funny. So we need lockable spaces, we need enclosed spaces so that we can just lock them in.’ (Lexi, Rainbow)

Being a family with twins had implications for the physical spaces required for parenting. As well as attending the Rainbow playgroup, Lexi also took her children to a playgroup specifically for multiple birth children and their families, run by students at a technical and further education institution (TAFE). Lexi’s choice to attend this playgroup was in response to the challenge of parenting twins and connecting with a community of multiple birth families. Social support is particularly important for parents of twins (Kehoe et al, 2016); the TAFE playgroup provided a space for that support, with other parents who understood the practices involved in raising twins.

Many parents were members of more than one parenting group, as they sought to negotiate the multiplicity of their family identities. We have seen that Lexi attended the Rainbow playgroup and a multiple birth playgroup. Clare attended Tiny Tots to build a local community, and also attended a playgroup with predominantly Islamic families for her Islamic family identity. Rosa attended the Japanese playgroup for her Japanese family identity, and participated in other parenting networks for her own personal social support. Ashleigh attended both the local Parklands playgroup, and a church-based playgroup. These multiple memberships gave them access to a number of places in which to belong, with shared practices that supported their multiple family identities.

Judgement and respect

To better understand what the experience of playgroup feels like, during the course of each interview I asked people for three (or more) words that described how people treated each other at the playgroups they had attended. The most selected word was respect/ful, followed by friendly and kind. Of the 42 different words chosen, 11 were named more than once. Table 1 shows how many people chose each of these 11 words, and in how many of the four playgroups.

Table 1:

Words to describe how people treat each other at playgroup

WordNo. of peopleNo. of playgroups
Respect/ful83
Friendly64
Kind63
Open/ness or openminded53
Welcoming43
Understanding33
Support/ive32
Helpful32
Enjoy/able22
Fun22
Positive22

These words indicate that for the mothers interviewed, playgroup communities are comfortable, supportive environments where people can belong.

Parents, particularly those at the LGBTQ playgroup, contrasted uncomfortable moments in other parenting settings with their positive playgroup experiences. These moments had caused many people not to return to a particular parenting environment or playgroup, but instead try to seek a playgroup that would feel more comfortable. Jodie’s example was:

‘We had an experience when we did our antenatal class, where we were the only same-sex couple, everything was referred to as dad, we felt really uncomfortable, and so [the Rainbow playgroup] … is much more comforting, I guess, and I’m not having to, you know, when someone says “Oh, what does your husband do?” And I’m like, do I correct you? Do I not? All of that is out, and we can just relax and be ourselves and not worry about being judged.’ (Jodie, Rainbow)

Being positioned as different at the ante-natal class had made them feel judged as parents, and while they could have corrected and challenged that positioning, they felt uncomfortable doing so.

Parents did sometimes feel judged at playgroup. Prior to attending a playgroup, Zara held the view that parenting groups would have “a bit gossipy kind of nature, in this judgy sort of way of raising kids” (Zara, Parklands). She did not join a mothers’ group for this reason, and did not venture into a playgroup until her child was two and a half. This demonstrates that the expectation of judgement can lead to some mothers choosing to defer or even not to attend parenting groups. In all of the interviews with members of the Tiny Tots playgroup, I was told stories about Diane, who had previously attended, but stopped attending when she moved to the other side of the city. In these accounts, Diane was very opinionated about health-related matters, and keen to share her knowledge. This often resulted in Diane upsetting another mother at the playgroup. Sophie told me that Diane “would outright tell people what they were doing wrong with their children and how it’s going to lead to inevitable obesity and they were going to die” (Sophie, Tiny Tots). Sophie reported on the impact that this could have, explaining that “the occasional mother used to cry after a conversation with [Diane]. I’d say ‘Don’t worry, I know she called your baby fat but she was doing it with the best of intentions. It’s all right,’” (Sophie, Tiny Tots). Diane’s efforts to pass on the knowledge she had, where she thought it would be useful, was received by the other mothers as judgement on their parenting practices and their ability to be a ‘good mother’ (Goodwin and Huppatz, 2010). Feeling judged in their parenting caused them distress.

It is not uncommon for parents to feel uncertain about their competence (Miller, 2007). Like Kayla’s statement above that “I needed to question myself” (Kayla, Rainbow), Lexi also questioned herself as a mother. Lexi had attended playgroup in the past while working as a nanny, and she contrasted these two experiences. As a nanny she was able to just have fun with the child, but when “I was the mum now” she found that she was constantly asking herself “Am I doing the right thing?” (Lexi, Rainbow) This self-questioning meant that mothers could easily feel judged and excluded if others commented on their parenting practices, particularly if the mother felt uncertain about her competence.

Breastfeeding, particularly extended breastfeeding, is an example of a parenting practice that can divide mothers and be central to their maternal identity (Faircloth, 2010). Zara felt that she would be judged for her frequent, on-demand breastfeeding of her child:

‘Breastfeeding is probably one of the major reasons why I didn’t venture outside the house for a long time, or go into these mothers’ groups, because [my child] was so needy – I was whipping my boob out every couple of hours. And for the longest time I felt like I was kind of housebound and I was really embarrassed.’ (Zara, Parklands)

Eleni, who was introducing bottle-feeding so that she could go back to work, recounted that in her playgroup

‘there was one mum in particular … that was very “breast is best”. She had a very strong opinion and she was probably the only person that ever made me feel, maybe I’m not trying hard enough.’ (Eleni, Tiny Tots)

Although the playgroups had a supportive culture for breastfeeding, there were also mothers at these playgroups, like Eleni, who partly or exclusively bottle-fed their babies, and also felt supported in this decision by the coordinator and other playgroup members. I found that while feeding practices were important, mothers could take different approaches to breastfeeding and bottle-feeding within the same playgroup.

Amira also had a fear of being “judged” and felt “isolated” on her first visit to the playgroup because of her age. Her explanation for feeling too young was interwoven with cultural practice:

‘I’m Egyptian and my partner is Lebanese. […] back in Egypt and Lebanon we […] get married young, you have children quite young, you start a family young and then by the age of about 30 or 40 your kids are grown up already, and then you start taking care of your parents. So that’s in our culture how we do it. […] I just personally wanted to start young and I found the guy so I thought, well. I was happy to do so.’ (Amira, Parklands)

Amira recognised that the fact she was a young mother was connected with cultural practice, and because that practice was not reflected in the playgroup culture, she felt isolated and that people might judge her. Amira’s intersectional identity as a young Egyptian mother may have meant that she felt particularly vulnerable to judgement.

When social support functions well in playgroups, the playgroup culture does not support judgemental behaviour. Brooke contrasted her experiences in an online group with those at playgroup. When she went online to ask for advice about a TV show for her children, she “got a lot of negative feedback”. She reflected that she should have just asked people at playgroup as they would have been more helpful, and less judgemental, because “no one is going to support you in being negative or being judgemental of someone else’s parenting decisions” (Brooke, Parklands). Here, Brooke describes a playgroup culture where people do not criticize others’ parenting choices or make them feel like a bad parent. Eleni points to another way that playgroup parents are supportive and not judgemental. She says that the parents at playgroup are “down-to-earth people. It’s not a movie, they’re not all perfect mums, that get dressed up and have perfect children. It’s just people that have shit days like me, shit moments” (Eleni, Tiny Tots). The result of this, for Eleni, is that “they don’t make me feel any less a good mum. In fact, if anything, they make me feel like a better mum” (Eleni, Tiny Tots). This willingness of parents to admit when things aren’t going as well as they might like allows Eleni to feel supported rather than judged, and that she is parenting well. Mothers in these playgroups can ask for advice and receive it in a way that makes them feel supported and respected, and they are still seen as good mothers.

Discussion

I have set out the evidence that community playgroups are sites of social support for parents. The process of becoming a parent involves learning how to parent, by learning childrearing practices, negotiating discourses of good motherhood, and making meaning about what it is to be a parent. These aspects of becoming a parent are supported through being in a playgroup community with other parents. I build on work by others who have demonstrated that supported playgroups are places for parents to find social support (Jackson, 2011) by extending these findings to community playgroups.

For many parents, their friendship networks change when they become parents (Gibson et al, 2015). These results indicate that community playgroups are sites where mothers seek connection, and find new friendships. The friendship aspect of community playgroups is important for social support because friends have been found to be the main providers of both emotional support and advice (Edwards and Gillies, 2004).

Furthermore, I argue that that belonging and identity are integral to parents’ search for social support in playgroups. Parents seek a playgroup community where they can belong, where their identities are recognised and respected, and it is this that makes them able to participate in social support. I confirm previous findings that some parents feel uncomfortable at playgroup or other early childhood services (Gibson et al, 2015). Identities relating to sexuality, language, ethnicity, religion and age can create an uncomfortable difference between playgroup members. Identity has an impact on how social support is experienced, because dimensions of identity are interwoven with parenting practices, and how people make connections with their new parenting identity.

Sharing specific identity-related parenting practices are an important component of social support, as parents are then able to have conversations about what they have in common. Others may not understand the importance or meaning of, for example, particular breastfeeding practices, conceiving through IVF, or children’s names. The identity work of becoming a mother involves sharing the personal narrative of this change process, so that it is recognisable to the cultural community to which the mother belongs (Thomson et al, 2009). Identity is made intelligible to the self and to others by practices that ‘interweave personal biography and collective practices’ (Wetherell, 2009: 4). Hence, parenting practices are different for different identity communities (Guo, 2019), and becoming a parent involves being in a community where identity-specific practices are learnt in a social context. I argue that the discomfort and exclusion felt by some parents arises because social support is embedded in identity practices and is supported by a sense of connection and belonging; so that an absence of shared identity, connection and belonging is what leads to discomfort and potential self-exclusion from playgroup.

One demographic, previously identified as underrepresented in playgroups, is those families who have a language background other than English. Research has shown that children with an English language background were twice as likely to attend playgroups than children with a language background other than English (Gregory et al, 2016). I found two reasons that may explain these findings. The first is that when people have limited English language proficiency, they can feel excluded from groups where English language is dominant. The second is that people seek to make a connection with others at playgroup, and that connection may be based around a shared culture or country of origin, including sharing a language (Williams Veazey, 2019). If there is no one in the local playgroup with whom that cultural connection can be made, families may then not attend.

My findings corroborate previous work that some parents feel judged in parenting groups (Nichols, 2010), and show that the anticipation of such judgement can lead people to avoid playgroup. Like Miller (2007), I found that new parents can question their own ability as parents. This self-questioning can exacerbate a feeling of being judged by others. In Mulcahy et al (2010), the examples of exclusion and judgement provided were primarily because of parenting practices and socioeconomic status. The participant mothers were educated, White, with class privilege, and partnered with men, and the playgroups met in each other’s homes. In contrast, in this article, the participants were deliberately recruited in such a way that there was diversity in language, culture, sexuality and socioeconomic status, to understand intersectional experiences of social support and inclusion. Feeling judged did still occur in this research, but for the mothers who were interviewed, this risk of judgement was balanced by the respect they felt was present in their playgroup.

This finding of the centrality of respect at playgroup has important implications for the possibility of making playgroups more inclusive. Respect is fundamental to positive intercultural encounters across difference (Wessendorf, 2014; Williamson, 2016), and is central to inclusive education in early childhood, and learning to live with difference (Purdue et al, 2009). Young mothers are another group who are less likely to attend playgroup (Hoffmann et al, 2020). Brand et al (2015) argue that young mothers do feel judged, and that there is a need for community services for young mothers that provide a judgement-free space in which they feel a sense of belonging and social support, and a positive sense of self, identity and autonomy is promoted. A foundation of respectful behaviour in playgroups could be built on by policy and practice to ensure playgroups are more welcoming to more families.

Many mothers seek out a community playgroup where they can feel that they belong, and they will avoid or leave a group where this is not the case. Mothers might seek out a playgroup that is organised around a specific identity in this search for belonging. Some people feel more connected and find a sense of belonging at an identity-based playgroup. Families are sites of multiple identities (Hames-Garcia, 2011), and I found that mothers navigate these identities in the parenting practices and networks they develop through their playgroup attendance. These multiple identities can result in multiple belongings to more than one group. When considering belonging, we must also pay attention to how identity-based groups set their boundaries (Yuval-Davis, 2006), and who is excluded or excluded from, for example, an LGBTQ group (Townley, 2020). Furthermore, little attention is paid in the literature to boundary setting in parenting groups that are not identity based, but open to all, as location-based playgroups are. However, these latter groups also have unacknowledged cultural boundaries, usually reflecting the normative, often unrecognised, dominant culture of wider society, and this is an important area for further work.

Playgroup policy has little to say about belonging and identity, and identity-based playgroups, for the most part, merit little or no mention in policy documents. Instead, policy is usually underpinned by the assumption that community playgroups are all similar, suitable across culture, language and identity, although there are indicators that this is changing (Townley, 2021). More explicit concern with identity and belonging in playgroup practice, provision and policy, particularly in community playgroups, may lead to the inclusion of parents who currently do not participate.

In this article, I have begun to analyse the processes by which parents are included or excluded in their search for a playgroup. Arguably, my findings are limited by the fact that most of my participants had been attending their chosen playgroups for some time, and therefore would be expected to have positive experiences. However, some participants discussed their negative experiences in parenting groups and playgroups. The implications for policy arising from the findings in this article are: first, that playgroups are important places to find friendship and non-judgemental support from peers during the process of becoming a parent. This is a key attribute that differentiates them from other services and social spaces. Second, while location-based playgroups continue to be important, a wider range of identity-based playgroups would support more parents in finding a place to belong and participate in social support. Third, finding ways to support community playgroups to be spaces where people feel that their identities are understood and respected, where they do not feel judged, and can feel that they belong, will support the participation of more families in communities of social support at playgroup.

Note

1

All playgroup and participant names are pseudonyms.

2

A Leagues Club is a member-based entertainment and dining venue common in Australian suburbs, often with facilities for children.

Funding

This work was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.

Acknowledgements

This work was developed from my PhD project, and I acknowledge the guidance of my PhD supervisors, kylie valentine and Megan Blaxland.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.

References

  • Bailey, L. (1999) Refracted selves? A study of changes in self-identity in the transition to motherhood, Sociology, 33(2): 33552. doi: 10.1177/S0038038599000206

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bedolla, L.G. (2007) Intersections of inequality: understanding marginalization and privilege in the post-civil rights era, Politics & Gender, 3(2): 23248.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bourdieu, P. (1999) The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society, Oxford: Polity.

  • Brand, G., Morrison, P. and Down, B. (2015) ‘You don’t know half the story’: deepening the dialogue with young mothers in Australia, Journal of Research in Nursing, 20(5): 35369. doi: 10.1177/1744987114565223

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2019) Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis, Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11(4): 58997. doi: 10.1080/2159676X.2019.1628806

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brooks, R. and Hodkinson, P. (2020) Out-of-place: the lack of engagement with parent networks of caregiving fathers of young children, Families, Relationships and Societies, 9(2): 20116. doi: 10.1332/204674319X15536844488314

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Crenshaw, K.W. (1991) Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color, Stanford Law Review, 43(6): 124199. doi: 10.2307/1229039

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Doty, J. and Dworkin, J. (2014) Online social support for parents: a critical review, Marriage & Family Review, 50(2): 17498. doi: 10.1080/01494929.2013.834027

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Edwards, R. and Gillies, V. (2004) Support in parenting: values and consensus concerning who to turn to, Journal of Social Policy, 33(04): 62747. doi: 10.1017/S0047279404008037

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ezzy, D. (2010) Qualitative interviewing as an embodied emotional performance, Qualitative Inquiry, 16(3): 16370. doi: 10.1177/1077800409351970

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Faircloth, C. (2010) ‘If they want to risk the health and Well-being of their child, that’s up to them’: Long-term breastfeeding, risk and maternal identity, Health, Risk & Society, 12(4): 35767. doi: 10.1080/13698571003789674

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Faircloth, C. (2014) The problem of ‘attachment’: the ‘detached’ parent, in E. Lee, J. Bristow, C. Faircloth and J. Macvarish (eds) Parenting Culture Studies, pp 14764, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Geens, N. and Vandenbroeck, M. (2014) The (ab)sense of a concept of social support in parenting research: a social work perspective, Child and Family Social Work, 19(4): 491500. doi: 10.1111/cfs.12048

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ghate, D. and Hazel, N. (2004) Parenting in Poor Environments: Stress, Support and Coping. Summary of Key Messages for Policy and Practice from a Major National Study, London: Policy Research Bureau.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gibson, H., Harman, B. and Guilfoyle, A. (2015) Social capital in metropolitan playgroups: a qualitative analysis of early parental interactions, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 40(2): 411. doi: 10.1177/183693911504000202

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Goodwin, S. and Huppatz, K. (2010) The Good Mother: Contemporary Motherhoods in Australia, NSW: Sydney University Press.

  • Gregory, T., Harman-Smith, Y., Sincovich, A., Wilson, A. and Brinkman, S. (2016) It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: The Influence and Impact of Playgroups across Australia, South Australia: Telethon Kids Institute.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Guo, K. (2019) Differences of parenting between Anglo-Australian families and ethnic minority communities: the ethnic minority voice, Journal of Cultural Diversity, 26(1): 916.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hames-Garcia (2011) Identity Complex: Making the Case for Multiplicity, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Harman, B., Guilfoyle, A. and O’Connor, M. (2014) Why mothers attend playgroup, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 39(4): 1317. doi: 10.1177/183693911403900417

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hays, S. (1996) The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

  • Hoffmann, H., Olson, R. E., Perales, F. and Baxter, J. (2020) New mothers and social support: a mixed-method study of young mothers in Australia, Journal of Sociology, 57(4): 95068. doi: 10.1177/1440783320978706.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Itoh, M. (2014) Japanese migrant women’s transnational gendered identity politics in international marriages in Australia, Lilith: A Feminist History Journal, (20): 4861.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jackson, D. (2011) What’s really going on? Parents’ views of parent support in three Australian supported playgroups, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36(4): 2937. doi: 10.1177/183693911103600405

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kehoe, A., Dempster, M., McManus, J. and Lewis, S. (2016) Stress and coping in parents of newly born twins, Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 37(3): 11018. doi: 10.1080/0167482X.2016.1175427

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McLean, K., Edwards, S. and Mantilla, A. (2020) A review of community playgroup participation, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 45(2): 15569. doi: 10.1177/1836939120918484

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Miller, T. (2007) ‘Is this what motherhood is all about?’ Weaving experiences and discourse through transition to first-time motherhood, Gender & Society, 21(3): 33758. doi: 10.1177/0891243207300561

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mizukami, T. (2007) The Sojourner Community: Japanese Migration and Residency in Australia, Leiden, Boston: Brill.

  • Mulcahy, C.M., Parry, D.C. and Glover, T.D. (2010) Play‐group politics: a critical social capital exploration of exclusion and conformity in mothers groups, Leisure Studies, 29(1): 327. doi: 10.1080/02614360903266973

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Neale, J. (2016) Iterative categorization (IC): a systematic technique for analysing qualitative data, Addiction, 111(6): 1096106. doi: 10.1111/add.13314

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nichols, S. (2010) Perspectives on inclusivity and support in organised and informal activities for parents of preschool children, New Zealand Research in Early Childhood Education, 13: 2941.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Oke, N., Stanley, J. and Theobald, J. (2007) The Inclusive Role of Playgroups in Greater Dandenong, Fitzroy, Vic: Brotherhood of St Lawrence.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Playgroup Australia (2022) Playgroup Australia, https://playgroupaustralia.org.au/start-a-playgroup/.

  • Purdue, K., Gordon-Burns, D., Gunn, A., Madden, B. and Surtees, N. (2009) Supporting inclusion in early childhood settings: some possibilities and problems for teacher education, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13(8): 80515. doi: 10.1080/13603110802110743

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Richardson, L. (2000) Writing: a method of inquiry, in N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds) Handbook of Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications, pp 92348.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rudy, D. and Grusec, J.E. (2006) Authoritarian parenting in individualist and collectivist groups: associations with maternal emotion and cognition and children’s self-esteem, Journal of Family Psychology, 20(1): 6878. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.20.1.68

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shields, S. (2008) Gender: an intersectionality perspective, A Journal of Research, 59(5): 30111.

  • Sincovich, A., Harman-Smith, Y. and Brinkman, S. (2014) A Qualitative Evaluation of the Factors Impacting Participation in a Community Playgroup Program, South Australia: Telethon Kids Insitute.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, J.A. (1999) Identity development during the transition to motherhood: an interpretative phenomenological analysis, Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 17(3): 28199. doi: 10.1080/02646839908404595

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sutherland, J.A. (2010) Mothering, guilt and shame, Sociology Compass, 4(5): 31021. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00283.x

  • Takeda, A. (2013) Weblog narratives of Japanese migrant women in Australia: consequences of international mobility and migration, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 37(4): 41521. doi: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2013.04.006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thomson, R., Kehilly, M.J., Hadfield, L. and Sharpe, S. (2009) The making of modern motherhoods: storying an emergent identity, in M. Wetherell (ed) Identity in the 21st Century: New Trends in Changing Times, Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 197212.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Townley, C. (2018) Playgroups: moving in from the margins of history, policy and feminism, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 43(2): 6471. doi: 10.23965/AJEC.43.2.07

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Townley, C. (2020) Supporting family identity: the processes that influence belonging and boundaries in an LGBTQ playgroup, Journal of Family Studies, doi: 10.1080/13229400.2020.1789492.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Townley, C. (2021) Inclusion, belonging and intercultural spaces: a narrative policy analysis of playgroups in Australia, The Australian Journal of Social Issues, doi: 10.1002/ajs4.199.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Verrelli, S., White, F.A., Harvey, L.J. and Pulciani, M.R. (2019) Minority stress, social support, and the mental health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual Australians during the Australian marriage law postal survey, Australian Psychologist, 54(4): 33646. doi: 10.1111/ap.12380

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wessendorf, S. (2014) ‘Being open, but sometimes closed’. Conviviality in a super-diverse London neighbourhood, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 17(4): 392405. doi: 10.1177/1367549413510415

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wetherell, M. (2009) Introduction: Negotiating liveable lives – identity in contemporary Britain, in M. Wetherell (ed) Identity in the 21st Century: New Trends in Changing Times, Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 120.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Williams Veazey, L. (2019) Glocalised motherhood: sociality and affect in migrant mothers’ online communities, Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics, 3(1–2): Article No: 09. doi: 10.20897/femenc/5915

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Williamson, R. (2016) Everyday space, mobile subjects and place-based belonging in suburban Sydney, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 42(14): 232844. doi: 10.1080/1369183X.2016.1205803

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Yuval-Davis, N. (2006) Belonging and the politics of belonging, Patterns of Prejudice, 40(3): 197214. doi: 10.1080/00313220600769331

  • Bailey, L. (1999) Refracted selves? A study of changes in self-identity in the transition to motherhood, Sociology, 33(2): 33552. doi: 10.1177/S0038038599000206

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bedolla, L.G. (2007) Intersections of inequality: understanding marginalization and privilege in the post-civil rights era, Politics & Gender, 3(2): 23248.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bourdieu, P. (1999) The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society, Oxford: Polity.

  • Brand, G., Morrison, P. and Down, B. (2015) ‘You don’t know half the story’: deepening the dialogue with young mothers in Australia, Journal of Research in Nursing, 20(5): 35369. doi: 10.1177/1744987114565223

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2019) Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis, Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11(4): 58997. doi: 10.1080/2159676X.2019.1628806

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brooks, R. and Hodkinson, P. (2020) Out-of-place: the lack of engagement with parent networks of caregiving fathers of young children, Families, Relationships and Societies, 9(2): 20116. doi: 10.1332/204674319X15536844488314

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Crenshaw, K.W. (1991) Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color, Stanford Law Review, 43(6): 124199. doi: 10.2307/1229039

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Doty, J. and Dworkin, J. (2014) Online social support for parents: a critical review, Marriage & Family Review, 50(2): 17498. doi: 10.1080/01494929.2013.834027

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Edwards, R. and Gillies, V. (2004) Support in parenting: values and consensus concerning who to turn to, Journal of Social Policy, 33(04): 62747. doi: 10.1017/S0047279404008037

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ezzy, D. (2010) Qualitative interviewing as an embodied emotional performance, Qualitative Inquiry, 16(3): 16370. doi: 10.1177/1077800409351970

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Faircloth, C. (2010) ‘If they want to risk the health and Well-being of their child, that’s up to them’: Long-term breastfeeding, risk and maternal identity, Health, Risk & Society, 12(4): 35767. doi: 10.1080/13698571003789674

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Faircloth, C. (2014) The problem of ‘attachment’: the ‘detached’ parent, in E. Lee, J. Bristow, C. Faircloth and J. Macvarish (eds) Parenting Culture Studies, pp 14764, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Geens, N. and Vandenbroeck, M. (2014) The (ab)sense of a concept of social support in parenting research: a social work perspective, Child and Family Social Work, 19(4): 491500. doi: 10.1111/cfs.12048

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ghate, D. and Hazel, N. (2004) Parenting in Poor Environments: Stress, Support and Coping. Summary of Key Messages for Policy and Practice from a Major National Study, London: Policy Research Bureau.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gibson, H., Harman, B. and Guilfoyle, A. (2015) Social capital in metropolitan playgroups: a qualitative analysis of early parental interactions, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 40(2): 411. doi: 10.1177/183693911504000202

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Goodwin, S. and Huppatz, K. (2010) The Good Mother: Contemporary Motherhoods in Australia, NSW: Sydney University Press.

  • Gregory, T., Harman-Smith, Y., Sincovich, A., Wilson, A. and Brinkman, S. (2016) It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: The Influence and Impact of Playgroups across Australia, South Australia: Telethon Kids Institute.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Guo, K. (2019) Differences of parenting between Anglo-Australian families and ethnic minority communities: the ethnic minority voice, Journal of Cultural Diversity, 26(1): 916.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hames-Garcia (2011) Identity Complex: Making the Case for Multiplicity, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Harman, B., Guilfoyle, A. and O’Connor, M. (2014) Why mothers attend playgroup, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 39(4): 1317. doi: 10.1177/183693911403900417

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hays, S. (1996) The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

  • Hoffmann, H., Olson, R. E., Perales, F. and Baxter, J. (2020) New mothers and social support: a mixed-method study of young mothers in Australia, Journal of Sociology, 57(4): 95068. doi: 10.1177/1440783320978706.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Itoh, M. (2014) Japanese migrant women’s transnational gendered identity politics in international marriages in Australia, Lilith: A Feminist History Journal, (20): 4861.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jackson, D. (2011) What’s really going on? Parents’ views of parent support in three Australian supported playgroups, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36(4): 2937. doi: 10.1177/183693911103600405

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kehoe, A., Dempster, M., McManus, J. and Lewis, S. (2016) Stress and coping in parents of newly born twins, Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 37(3): 11018. doi: 10.1080/0167482X.2016.1175427

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McLean, K., Edwards, S. and Mantilla, A. (2020) A review of community playgroup participation, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 45(2): 15569. doi: 10.1177/1836939120918484

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Miller, T. (2007) ‘Is this what motherhood is all about?’ Weaving experiences and discourse through transition to first-time motherhood, Gender & Society, 21(3): 33758. doi: 10.1177/0891243207300561

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mizukami, T. (2007) The Sojourner Community: Japanese Migration and Residency in Australia, Leiden, Boston: Brill.

  • Mulcahy, C.M., Parry, D.C. and Glover, T.D. (2010) Play‐group politics: a critical social capital exploration of exclusion and conformity in mothers groups, Leisure Studies, 29(1): 327. doi: 10.1080/02614360903266973

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Neale, J. (2016) Iterative categorization (IC): a systematic technique for analysing qualitative data, Addiction, 111(6): 1096106. doi: 10.1111/add.13314

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nichols, S. (2010) Perspectives on inclusivity and support in organised and informal activities for parents of preschool children, New Zealand Research in Early Childhood Education, 13: 2941.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Oke, N., Stanley, J. and Theobald, J. (2007) The Inclusive Role of Playgroups in Greater Dandenong, Fitzroy, Vic: Brotherhood of St Lawrence.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Playgroup Australia (2022) Playgroup Australia, https://playgroupaustralia.org.au/start-a-playgroup/.

  • Purdue, K., Gordon-Burns, D., Gunn, A., Madden, B. and Surtees, N. (2009) Supporting inclusion in early childhood settings: some possibilities and problems for teacher education, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13(8): 80515. doi: 10.1080/13603110802110743

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Richardson, L. (2000) Writing: a method of inquiry, in N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds) Handbook of Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications, pp 92348.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rudy, D. and Grusec, J.E. (2006) Authoritarian parenting in individualist and collectivist groups: associations with maternal emotion and cognition and children’s self-esteem, Journal of Family Psychology, 20(1): 6878. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.20.1.68

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Shields, S. (2008) Gender: an intersectionality perspective, A Journal of Research, 59(5): 30111.

  • Sincovich, A., Harman-Smith, Y. and Brinkman, S. (2014) A Qualitative Evaluation of the Factors Impacting Participation in a Community Playgroup Program, South Australia: Telethon Kids Insitute.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, J.A. (1999) Identity development during the transition to motherhood: an interpretative phenomenological analysis, Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 17(3): 28199. doi: 10.1080/02646839908404595

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sutherland, J.A. (2010) Mothering, guilt and shame, Sociology Compass, 4(5): 31021. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00283.x

  • Takeda, A. (2013) Weblog narratives of Japanese migrant women in Australia: consequences of international mobility and migration, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 37(4): 41521. doi: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2013.04.006

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thomson, R., Kehilly, M.J., Hadfield, L. and Sharpe, S. (2009) The making of modern motherhoods: storying an emergent identity, in M. Wetherell (ed) Identity in the 21st Century: New Trends in Changing Times, Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 197212.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Townley, C. (2018) Playgroups: moving in from the margins of history, policy and feminism, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 43(2): 6471. doi: 10.23965/AJEC.43.2.07

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Townley, C. (2020) Supporting family identity: the processes that influence belonging and boundaries in an LGBTQ playgroup, Journal of Family Studies, doi: 10.1080/13229400.2020.1789492.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Townley, C. (2021) Inclusion, belonging and intercultural spaces: a narrative policy analysis of playgroups in Australia, The Australian Journal of Social Issues, doi: 10.1002/ajs4.199.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Verrelli, S., White, F.A., Harvey, L.J. and Pulciani, M.R. (2019) Minority stress, social support, and the mental health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual Australians during the Australian marriage law postal survey, Australian Psychologist, 54(4): 33646. doi: 10.1111/ap.12380

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wessendorf, S. (2014) ‘Being open, but sometimes closed’. Conviviality in a super-diverse London neighbourhood, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 17(4): 392405. doi: 10.1177/1367549413510415

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wetherell, M. (2009) Introduction: Negotiating liveable lives – identity in contemporary Britain, in M. Wetherell (ed) Identity in the 21st Century: New Trends in Changing Times, Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 120.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Williams Veazey, L. (2019) Glocalised motherhood: sociality and affect in migrant mothers’ online communities, Feminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics, 3(1–2): Article No: 09. doi: 10.20897/femenc/5915

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Williamson, R. (2016) Everyday space, mobile subjects and place-based belonging in suburban Sydney, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 42(14): 232844. doi: 10.1080/1369183X.2016.1205803

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Yuval-Davis, N. (2006) Belonging and the politics of belonging, Patterns of Prejudice, 40(3): 197214. doi: 10.1080/00313220600769331

  • 1 University of New South Wales, , Australia

Content Metrics

May 2022 onwards Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 8 8 8
PDF Downloads 11 11 11

Altmetrics

Dimensions