Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Blair Thompson, Jennifer Mize Smith, Jieyoung Kong

Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Sexual communication research has long focused on adolescents, though a growing area in need of focus revolves around sexual confidence and view of self, or sexual self-concept. Similarly, research on motherhood often lacks a deep view into postpartum women’s feelings and experiences and how they communicate about them with other people. Relational Dialectics Theory and Communication Privacy Management were used to evaluate how postpartum women experiences changes in their sexual self-concept and how they subsequently communicate about those changes with other people. Through interviewing 10 women through semi-structured interviews surrounding their experiences with sexual self-concept and motherhood, themes connecting open communication, privacy, boundaries, support, and gendered issues emerged. Findings indicated that postpartum women experienced both a decrease in their sexual selfconcept postpartum as well as an increase in their general self-concept, and they were often open with friends about their issues with their sexual self-concept, and most were open with their partner. Participants similarly noted struggles with autonomy postpartum in relation to their connection with their partner and friends, but with their child as well. Participants also described having to adapt to new experiences with parenthood such as having to make time for intimacy and spending more time with friends who were also mothers. The mothers also described implementing certain privacy boundaries with friends and their partner, and they experienced gendered issues related to their heterosexual relationship. Major contributions, implications, and directions for possible future research are explored.


Communication | Family, Life Course, and Society | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences