Transition to motherhood across three generations of Poles. Intergenerational longitudinal study [GEMTRA]


The aim of the GEMTRA (GEnerations of Mothers in TRAnsition) project is to examine the experiences linked to becoming a mother in Poland, both presently and in the earlier socio-historical moments of the last half-century. Generally, it has been demonstrated that the so called transition to motherhood – which means becoming a mother for the first time – constitutes a turning point in a woman’s biography Entering parenthood is not only a signal of reaching the adulthood stage of one’s life, but also impacts on other life decisions related to, e.g., employment or migration. At the same time, research depicting how the transition process actually occurs in Poland is scarce. Particularly little is known about the role of the social context. In other words, little attention has been paid to the fact that motherhood ‘takes place’ in a specific biographic and historic moment, which, in turn, determines the expectations and challenges associated with becoming a mother. More broadly, we seek to indicate similarities and differences in the biographies, decisions, and characteristics of three generations of Polish women.

This research is supported by the National Science Center under Grant Sonata 13 No 2017/26/D/HS6/00605, “Transition to motherhood across three generations of Poles. Intergenerational longitudinal study [GEMTRA]”.

Transition to motherhood

Directly linked to theoretical background and methodological approaches, the GEMTRA project seeks to answer the question: What does the process of transition to motherhood look like across three generations of Polish women?

To answer the above question we will conduct interviews with the expecting mothers, specifically – those who are expecting their first child, their mothers or mothers-in-law and grandmothers.

The research carried out for the project is qualitative (QLS methodology – Qualitative Longitudinal Study) and our respondents will, ideally, represent three generations of women from a given family. Firstly, we will conduct interviews with women who are between 19 and 29-years-old and are expecting their first child. Secondly, we will reach out to their mothers and grandmothers, ultimately interviewing them about not only their own past experiences of transitioning to motherhood, but also about their expectations related to becoming a grandmother or great-grandmother. In the GEMTRA project, we will meet with the respondents twice, under a premise of the so called longitudinal research. This means that after between 9 to 12 months since the first interviews have passed, we will interview the new mothers, new grandmothers and new great-grandmothers.

The adopted longitudinal lens (QLS) will allow us to contrast the expectations held by pregnant women and their families, with the actual experiences after the child has been born. In sum, we will conduct at least 100 interviews with Polish women of different ages. Besides examining the transition process, we will study whether young women actually reproduce the existing motherhood models found for the former generations, or, perhaps, if they create new models of Polish motherhood for the 21st century. The project assumes that the span of three investigated generations coincides with paramount social change. More specifically, the meaning of motherhood shifted from being an obvious event in the biographies of women over 40 and 60-years of age (i.e. for mothers and grandmothers of the core young respondents), to being more of an individual choice for the current 20-year-olds. Further investigated is the strength of intergenerational solidarity. For the latter, we verify to what degree young mothers take advantage of the former generations in obtaining help or advice with respect to caring for children.