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Soutenir la Transition et l'Engagement dans la Parentalité

Mission and values

Scientific research has a growing interest for adults who have experienced adverse events during their childhood and who are about to become parents. Several studies show that many of these future parents present physical and psychological difficulties during pregnancy. In addition, it seems that the children of parents who have experienced adverse life events are also more at risk of displaying difficulties during their development. 

However, to this day, there is no reason to believe that these consequences are systematic or permanent. On the contrary, we have clear evidence that adults who have experienced adverse life events can adapt well as they become parents, and that transmission to the child of certain parental vulnerabilities can be prevented. It is to this cause that the STEP program dedicates itself.

The position of the STEP team with regards to adverse life events

  • We reject the popular idea that individuals cannot offer their children what they have not received from their own parents. We believe that it is perfectly possible, but that it represents a challenge.
  • Most individuals who have experienced adverse life events are resilient. But we believe that they inevitably face barriers and challenges in their day-to-day life, in particular in the context of their role as parents.
  • Adverse life events have no inevitable or permanent outcomes. Several factors can positively modify the life trajectory of individuals exposed to such events and that of their children.
  • We reject the idea that individuals exposed to adverse life events present a ‘’deficiency ‘’ or a ‘’lack of knowledge”. We rather believe that the difficulties encountered by these individuals are ultimately part of adaptation efforts in response to exceptional events.  
  • We devote the same amount of attention to the strengths and to the vulnerabilities of individuals exposed to adverse life events.
  • Our approach to mental health is a developmental one. In other words, we believe that the difficulties encountered by individuals exposed to adverse life events depend on the interaction between factors that are specific to them. Among these factors are: the stage of development at the time of the adverse event, the sum of experiences before the adverse life event, the neurobiology, as well as the context (family, social and cultural) in which they were born and raised. We believe that these factors are dynamic, meaning that the difficulties encountered by these individuals cannot be seen as static in one point in time, but must be examined on a developmental trajectory that continues to expose these individuals to other protection and/or risk factors.

Values behind the offer of the STEP support meetings                                     

Most individuals exposed to adverse life events do not have many opportunities to talk about what worries them. We consider it necessary to give them that opportunity, especially during adaptation periods, such as when expecting a child, therefore decreasing their psychological isolation. This psychological isolation is reinforced by the generally conveyed message that the arrival of a child is a happy event and that the sole concern should be to have a healthy child.

The STEP team wishes to offer a “space” where parents-to-be will feel secure to talk, if they wish, about what worries them. These concerns may pertain, among others, to their feelings about the child to be born, physical changes of the pregnant woman or the impact of the arrival of the child. The way that individuals are received when they speak of their concerns plays a crucial role on their well-being. As the psychologist Pascale Brillon (2013) underlines it: “There is nothing about what you will tell me or about what you have lived that will change my perception of you.”

Expecting a child can be a transition period for one’s identity. It is generally a moment when future parents remember their own childhood and reflect on the type of parents that they wish to become or want to avoid becoming. These normal questions are sometimes accompanied with emotional distress. We want to offer our support meetings during pregnancy since it may be helpful to share one’s thoughts with people who are living a similar transition.