Mothers as Consumers of Childcare Centres: Living up to the image of the ideal mother

Ida Marie Jiman

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis examines how mothers, in their evaluation of different types of childcare centres, deal with the image of the ideal mother – paying special attention to the symbolic meanings they attach to the different childcare centres in their consideration set. The research examines how women’s mother groups influence their preferences for certain childcare options, the connection between mothers’ actual and ideal identity, the influence of word of mouth and its impact on their behaviour in relation to the decision-making when choosing childcare. The theoretical framework for the thesis is based within sociological theories, more specifically the phenomenon of symbolic interactionism. Literature related to reference groups, symbolic consumption, identity construction and motherhood are seen in relation to the empirical findings. Erwin Goffman’s dramaturgical approach and his essay on face work inspire the analysis providing insight into the interaction in different mother groups and an understanding of how it influences both the mothers’ idea of an ideal mother and their preferences for certain childcare centres. The study is based on 3 focus group interviews with already established mother groups in Elsinore. With a qualitative approach the study gives insight into some mothers reflection in their choice of childcare and the role of their mother group in their decision-making process. The analysis shows that not only the final choice, but also the way they approach the information search carries symbolic meaning. Some symbolic meanings are shared and culturally constituted, whereas others reside purely within the mothers’ social environment, in particularly her mother group. The study also explores how experience from other mothers makes individuals doubt or reassure themselves in their choice and how statements in relation to childcare are constructed to correspond to fit into the mothers’ definition of an ideal mother. The purpose of this thesis is to support the municipality of Elsinore as providers of childcare centres in their competition with the private market. Providing them with an understanding of mothers’ reflections in relation to their choice of childcare and how this understanding can be used to develop and promote childcare centres, so they do not just fit the mothers’ actual identity, but become a service that the mothers would recommend as part of their ideal mother identity.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages88