Social support is a significant, yet little understood, part of the sociocultural environment that impacts women’s reproductive decisions. A discourse analysis was conducted on twenty-three semi-structured interviews with women living in Victoria, Australia. The research identified and explored key interpretive repertoires and ideological dilemmas within the women’s narratives, to better understand the relationship between social support and reproductive decision-making. Two key themes were identified in the women’s narratives; expectations of social support, reflected in the interpretive repertoires “I feel lucky”, and “I don’t blame them”; and constructions of social support, reflected in “my choice, my decision” repertoire, and the gendered repertoire, “she’s open, he’s laid back”. Influenced by dominant social discourses related to women’s control over their bodies, and reproduction as taboo and “women’s business”, these repertoires reflect the constrained provision of social support from others, and simultaneously establish the importance of affirmation of individual choice as a meaningful experience of support for reproductive decision-making. The women’s discursive representations coexist and interact within ideological dilemmas that reflect the complexity of women’s lived experiences of social support and reproductive decision-making. These findings provide insight into women’s perceptions and experiences of social support for reproductive decision-making.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Almeling, R., & Waggoner, M. R. (2013). More and less than equal: How men factor in the reproductive equation. Gender & Society,27(6), 821–842. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243213484510.
Baheiraei, A., Mirghafourvand, M., Mohammadi, E., Charandabi, S. M.-A., & Nedjat, S. (2012). Social support for women of reproductive age and its predictors: A population-based study. BMC Women’s Health,12(1), 30. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6874-12-30.
Benschop, Y., Halsema, L., & Schreurs, P. (2001). The division of labour and inequalities between the sexes: An ideological dilemma. Gender, Work & Organization,8(1), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0432.00119.
Billig, M. (1988). Ideological dilemmas: A social psychology of everyday thinking. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.
Blieszner, R., & Roberto, K. A. (2004). Friendship across the life span: Reciprocity in individual and relationship development. In F. R. & K. L. Lang Fingerman (Eds), Growing together: Personal relationships across the life span. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 159–182.
Candace, C. M., Rachel, W., & Jodi, D. (2017). ‘It’s awkward stuff’: Conversations about sexuality with young children. Child and Family Social Work,22(2), 711–720. https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12287.
Dolan, A., & Coe, C. (2011). Men, masculine identities and childbirth. Sociology of Health & Illness,33(7), 1019–1034. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9566.2011.01349.x.
Earle, S., & Letherby, G. (2003). Introducing gender, identity and reproduction. In S. Earle & G. Letherby (Eds.), Gender, identity & reproduction: Social perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Edley, N. (2001). Analysing masculinity: Interpretative repertoires, ideological dilemmas and subject positions. In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor, & S. Yates (Eds.), Discourse as data: A guide for analysis. London: Sage.
Fennell, J. L. (2011). Men bring condoms, women take pills: Men’s and women’s roles in contraceptive decision making. Gender & Society,25(4), 496–521. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243211416113.
Goldberg, A. (2006). The transition to parenthood for lesbian couples. Journal of GLBT Family Studies,2(1), 13–42.
Golden, A. G., & Pomerantz, A. (2015). Interpretative repertoires that shape low-income African American women’s reproductive health care seeking: ‘Don’t Want to Know’ and ‘Taking Charge of Your Health’. Health Communication,30(8), 746–757. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2014.898363.
Graham, M., & Rich, S. (2012). Representations of childless women in the Australian print media. Feminist Media Studies, iFirst. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2012.737346.
Heaney, C. A., & Israel, B. A. (2008). Social networks and social support. In K. Glanz, B. K. Rimer, & K. Viswanath (Eds.), Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Hepburn, A., & Potter, J. (2004). Discourse analytic practice. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. F. Gubrium, & D. Silverman (Eds.), Qualitative research practice. London: Sage Publications.
Imeson, M., & McMurray, A. (1996). Couples’ experiences of infertility: A phenomenological study. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 24(5), 1014–1022. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.1996.tb02938.x.
Hussey, K. A., Katz, A. N., & Leith, S. A. (2015). Gendered language in interactive discourse. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research,44(4), 417–433. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-014-9295-5.
Jørgensen, M., & Phillips, L. (2002). Discourse analysis: As theory and method. London: Sage.
Lang, F. R. (2000). Endings and continuity of social relationships: Maximizing intrinsic benefits within personal networks when feeling near to death. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,17(2), 155–182. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407500172001.
Lang, F. R., Wagner, J., Wrzus, C., & Neyer, F. J. (2013). Personal effort in social relationships across adulthood. Psychology and Aging,28(2), 529.
Langford, C. P. H., Bowsher, J., Maloney, J. P., & Lillis, P. P. (1997). Social support: A conceptual analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing,25(1), 95–100. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.1997025095.x.
Leahy Warren, P. (2005). First-time mothers: Social support and confidence in infant care. Journal of Advanced Nursing,50(5), 479–488. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2005.03425.x.
Letherby, G. (2002). Challenging dominant discourses: Identity and change and the experience of ‘infertility’ and ‘involuntary childlessness’. Journal of Gender Studies,11(3), 277–288. https://doi.org/10.1080/0958923022000021241.
Maisel, N. C., & Gable, S. L. (2009). The paradox of received social support: The importance of responsiveness. Psychological Science,20(8), 928–932. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02388.x.
Major, B. (1993). Gender, entitlement, and the distribution of family labor. Journal of Social Issues,49(3), 141–159.
Markham, C. M., Lormand, D., Gloppen, K. M., Peskin, M. F., Flores, B., Low, B., et al. (2010). Connectedness as a predictor of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for youth. Journal of Adolescent Health,46(3), S23–S41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.11.214.
Miller, W. B. (1994). Childbearing motivations, desires, and intentions: A theoretical framework. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs,120(2), 223–258.
Miller, T. (2007). “Is this what motherhood is all about?” Weaving experiences and discourse through transition to first-time motherhood. Gender & Society,21(3), 337–358.
Morell, C. (2000). Saying no: Women’s experiences with reproductive refusal. Feminism & Psychology,10(3), 313–322. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353500010003002.
Newman, M. L. (2013). Introduction. In M. L. Newman & N. A. Roberts (Eds.), Health and social relationships: The good, the bad, and the complicated (1st ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Potter, J., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Discourse and social psychology: Beyond attitudes and behaviour. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Price, N. L., & Hawkins, K. (2007). A conceptual framework for the social analysis of reproductive health. Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition,25(1), 24–36.
Redshaw, M., & Martin, C. R. (2011). Reproductive decision-making, prenatal attachment and early parenting. Journal of Reproductive & Infant Psychology,29(3), 195–196. https://doi.org/10.1080/02646838.2011.614106.
Rich, S., Taket, A., Graham, M., & Shelley, J. (2011). ‘Unnatural’, ‘Unwomanly’, ‘Uncreditable’ and ‘Undervalued’: The significance of being a childless woman in Australian society. Gender Issues,28(4), 226–247. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12147-011-9108-1.
Ryan, M. (2013). The gender of pregnancy: Masculine lesbians talk about reproduction. Journal of Lesbian Studies,17(2), 119–133. https://doi.org/10.1080/10894160.2012.653766.
Samandari, G., Speizer, I. S., & O’Connell, K. (2010). The role of social support and parity on contraceptive use in Cambodia. International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,36(3), 122–131.
Slauson-Blevins, K., & Johnson, K. M. (2016). Doing gender, doing surveys? Women’s gatekeeping and men’s non-participation in multi-actor reproductive surveys. Sociological Inquiry,86(3), 427–449. https://doi.org/10.1111/soin.12122.
Sullivan-Bolyai, S., & Lee, M. M. (2011). Parent mentor perspectives on providing social support to empower parents. The Diabetes Educator,37(1), 35–43. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145721710392248.
Tarkka, M.-T. (2003). Predictors of maternal competence by first-time mothers when the child is 8 months old. Journal of Advanced Nursing,41(3), 233–240. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.2003.02524.x.
Taylor, S. E. (2011). Social support: A review. In H. S. Friedman (Ed), The Oxford handbook of health psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 189–214.
Throsby, K., & Gill, R. (2004). “It’s different for men”: Masculinity and IVF. Men and Masculinities,6(4), 330–348.
Turnbull, B., Graham, M. L., & Taket, A. R. (2016). Social exclusion of Australian childless women in their reproductive years. Social Inclusion,4(1), 102–115.
Uchino, B. N. (2006). Social support and health: A review of physiological processes potentially underlying links to disease outcomes. Journal of Behavioral Medicine,29(4), 377–387.
Woodward, K. (2003). Representations of motherhood. In S. Earle & G. Letherby (Eds.), Gender, identity & reproduction: Social perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Woollett, A., & Boyle, M. (2000). Reproduction, women’s lives and subjectivities. Feminism & Psychology,10(3), 307–311. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353500010003001.
This study was funded by the School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Smissen, A., Lamaro Haintz, G., McKenzie, H. et al. Discursive Representations of Social Support for Reproductive Decision-Making Among Victorian Women. Sexuality & Culture 24, 883–902 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-019-09670-y
- Reproductive decision-making
- Social support