Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Linnea Mavrides, Psy.D.

Second Advisor

Eva Feindler, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Camilo Ortiz, Ph.D.


This research explored how exposure to Intensive Mothering Ideology (IMI) may impact maternal mental health in modern mothers. Susan Hays coined the IMI term in 1996, inspiring a significant body of research around the topic which has shown that mothers generally process intensive mothering discourse contextually with consideration for unique era-specific societal challenges (Constantinou, Varela, & Buckby, 2021; Hays, 1996). To this author’s knowledge, there have been no general examinations of the impact of IMI on maternal mental health since before the outbreak of COVID-19 (though there have been a few pointed examinations of IMI in relation to the pandemic). This research aims to understand mothers’ experiences around intensive mothering discourse during the summer of 2022 (when seventeen semi-structured interviews were conducted) with respect to the unique social context of that time, how IMI content was consumed, processed, and internalized, and to what extent their experiences may have impacted their psychological wellbeing. Using the Auerbach and Silverstein (2003) method, interview transcripts were methodically coded and analyzed to uncover relevant text, repeating ideas (62 total), themes (14 total), and theoretical constructs (six total which were validated through study member checks) (Auerbach & Silverstein, 2003). Results showcase participant reflections on the roles that make up their identities, their values around mothering including external support systems, the pressures they feel to mother in a certain way, how they conceptualize the “ideal” mother, their relationships to social media, their experiences mothering during COVID-19, and their mental and physical wellbeing. Discussion contextualizes results within intersecting theories and sews the data together in light of these theories to craft a narrative that meaningfully represents participant experiences.