Risky bodies, risky spaces, maternal ‘instincts’: Swimming and motherhood

  • Adam B Evans, Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson, Rachel Williams
  • International Review for the Sociology of Sport, March 2016, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1012690216633444

What is it about?

The research is the second installment of our work which examines the experiences of young families when taking part in aquatic activity, including swimming. This paper focuses upon how they traverse the swimming space, andhow mothers manage their children's bodies. Using semi-structured interviews and non-participant observations, this qualitative study explored self-perceptions and embodied experiences of aquatic activity amongst 20 women, who were swimming with children aged under 4. Key findings were around mothers’ concerns about hygiene in specific areas of the pool, water temperature and safety, and elements of intercorporeality and ‘somatic empathy’.

Why is it important?

The study givesinsights into how this highly gendered activity is experienced by mothers of young children, including the manner in which techniques of parenting can be rationalised according to the perceptually 'innate' or 'instinctive' roles of the mother and father. It also highlights the perceived barriers to participation (both real and imagined), which has implications for the development of water confidence among young children.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson and Adam Evans