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Family Completion as Part of the Reproductive Cycle: What It Means to Be “Done”

Reproduction, Health, and Medicine

ISBN: 978-1-78756-172-4, eISBN: 978-1-78756-171-7

Publication date: 22 November 2019


Within the field of medical sociology, there is an extensive body of literature on notable family transitions and stages in the reproductive cycle, such as getting married or becoming a parent, as they relate to mental health and well-being. However, the transition to becoming a completed family, that is, the process of determining or recognizing that one’s family is complete, is notably absent. In response to this empirical gap, this chapter presents findings from 114 semi-structured interviews with participants who reported having at least one child and who considered their family to be complete. First, the concept of “family completion” is introduced and conceptualized based on the qualitative considerations of participants and the contextual medical sociology literature. Then, thematic considerations around the process of family completion, related emotional preparations, and factors associated with mental health and well-being are explored. Findings suggest that family completion can be an important transitional period for parents and can be associated with emotional hardship for some individuals. Participants described experiencing conflict with their partner if they disagreed on the completion decision, frustration and sadness related to infertility, and/or feelings of loss or depression when completion was regarded as the end of a personal or familial life phase. This chapter concludes that creating a cultural context in which family completion is a recognized family transition period may spur intentional consideration among parents and promote the design of intervention services for parents experiencing changes in mental health or well-being.




We would like to thank our study participants for their time and participation in this project. We are also grateful to Susan Markens and the editors and reviewers of this volume for the very helpful feedback and support on earlier drafts of this manuscript.


Franzese, A.T., Stober, K. and McCurdy, A.L. (2019), "Family Completion as Part of the Reproductive Cycle: What It Means to Be “Done”", Reproduction, Health, and Medicine (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 261-282.



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