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Couple support during the transition to parenthood: Varieties of empathic responding

Picciotto, Anna; (1999) Couple support during the transition to parenthood: Varieties of empathic responding. Doctoral thesis (D.Clin.Psy.), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This study set out to examine what characterised responses identified as being high and low in empathy in informal helping interactions between couples. Eighteen couples who were expecting their first baby and who expressed satisfaction with their relationship with their partner participated. Each couple took part in a semi-structured communication task in which women were the 'disclosers', and talked about a concern relating to becoming a parent, and men were the 'helpers', and were instructed to try to be helpful in whatever way felt natural to them. Responses identified by disclosers as high and low in empathy were discussed in a tape-assisted recall session. Qualitative analysis identified five themes as characterising high empathy responses: 'Checking out or exploring meaning'; 'Acknowledging the concern'; 'Articulating meaning or summarising'; 'Offering solutions' and 'A mutual experience'. Five themes were also identified as characterising low empathy responses: 'Missing the point'; 'Dismissing the concern'; 'Offering solutions'; 'Redirecting the conversation' and 'Persuading'. There were commonalities and variations in couples' experiences of empathy. The majority of the themes were labelled 'variant', occurring in less than half but more than two couples. However, responses experienced as high in empathy were not characterised by a particular 'response mode' either within or across couples. The findings suggest some similarities between the communication of empathy within therapy and within marriage; however, issues specific to the latter may add to the difficulty of its communication within that relationship. The findings of the study lend support to the conceptualisation of empathy as an attitude of the person delivering the response, rather than as a specific way of responding.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Clin.Psy.
Title: Couple support during the transition to parenthood: Varieties of empathic responding
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Parenthood
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099213
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