The Open Psychology Journal

ISSN: 1874-3501 ― Volume 14, 2021

Thinking for Three: Mothers’ and Fathers’ Narratives on Transition to Parenthood

Simon Ghinassi1, Benedetta Elmi1, Chiara Fioretti3, Andrea Smorti1, *, Franca Tani2
1 Department of Education, Languages, Intercultures, Literatures and Psychology - Laboratory of Methods and Analysis Techniques of Illness Experiences, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
2 Department of Health Sciences - Laboratory of Methods and Analysis Techniques of Illness Experiences, University of Florence, Florence, Italy
3 Department of Human, Philosophical and Educational Sciences (DISUFF) University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy



The birth of the first child represents a challenging event in the new-parents' life. Although literature highlighted that this period is experienced in a different way by the new mothers and new fathers, little is known about the broader evolutionary challenge that the transition to parenthood entails, also due to the difficulty of starting to think for three.


The present study aims to explore the new-parents' autobiographical narratives after childbirth, to examine the meaning they construct of this event, and investigate the differences between the experience of new mothers and new fathers.


Thirteen couples were recruited for the study. After childbirth, an individual open interview was conducted in order to collect information of the personal experience of becoming a parent. All interviews, audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim, were analyzed by T-Lab software in order to explore similarities and differences between them, using thematic analysis to perform unsupervised clustering of narrations to highlight the emerging themes, and we evaluated the elementary contexts of the narratives. A subsequent in-depth analysis regarding the process of delivery was conducted through the LIWC


Similar but not overlapping themes emerged from narratives. Overall, parents have to face three crucial issues: giving a meaning to the childbirth experience, reorganizing family life, and managing the newborn. However, new-mothers and new-fathers live this period not only with different roles, but also referring to different contexts and seem to house two different spaces: one mental and one physical. Fathers more than mothers highlighted the social aspects of childbirth.


Results highlight that childbirth represents an important turning point, which implies the transition from thinking for two to thinking for three. In this process, the two parents play, narratively, two different roles. Limitations, strengths, and implications are discussed.

Keywords: Narratives, Childbirth, Parenthood, Motherhood, Fatherhood, First-time parent.

Article Information

Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2021
Volume: 14
First Page: 53
Last Page: 61
Publisher Id: TOPSYJ-14-53
DOI: 10.2174/1874350102114010053

Article History:

Received Date: 15/8/2020
Revision Received Date: 16/11/2020
Acceptance Date: 30/1/2021
Electronic publication date: 16/04/2021
Collection year: 2021

© 2021 Ghinassi et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Education, Languages, Intercultures, Literatures and Psychology - Laboratory of Methods and Analysis Techniques of Illness Experiences, University of Florence, Florence, Italy; Tel: +393382325686; E-mail:

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