Pregnancy, motherhood, and academic career goals: Doctoral students’ perspectives

Document Type


Publication Date



Social Work

Publication Title

Affilia - Journal of Women and Social Work


While more doctoral students are pregnant and/or parenting in their doctoral programs than previously, little research has focused on their experiences. This qualitative study (N = 28) explored the experiences of female doctoral students who were pregnant during their doctoral program (in a health-care field) and their decision-making about careers postgraduation. This study examined participants’ perceptions of the implicit and explicit culture, professional expectations, and the role of these experiences on career goals and trajectories. Participants described an academic culture of high expectations, in which mothers could be successful if they maintained a silence about their identity as a mother and ensured that their family life did not negatively impact their work productivity. Some perceived lost opportunities in graduate school and/or on the job market due to pregnancies and parenting during graduate school. The impact of these experiences on postgraduate careers was diverse, but the majority spoke of wanting to find a position in a family-friendly organization where family was valued and work life balance was possible. For some, this was an academic position, while for others this was a full-time practice position or part-time work.

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