University Of Tasmania

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Narrative Inquiry: a Cultural Approach for Understanding Big and Small Stories of Motherhood and Sport on Instagram

posted on 2023-05-22, 19:52 authored by McGannon, KR, Graper, S, Jennifer McMahonJennifer McMahon

Purpose: To explore the digital landscape, narrowing to Instagram, as a cultural space to advance sociological understanding of elite athlete mother identity meanings and lives.

Design/methodology/approach: Relativist narrative inquiry is outlined as a theoretical and methodological approach to expand sociological research on motherhood and sport, by exploring big and small stories on social media sites. Elite athlete mother's mediated self-portrayals on Instagram are theorized as identity stories (re)created and made possible, by cultural narrative resources.

Findings: An example of big and small story research is outlined from a larger case study of elite athlete figure skating mothers' self-portrayals on Instagram as they negotiated motherhood, and a professional sport career. Thematic narrative analysis findings include a big story plot in the post-partum period: negotiating intensive mothering and career. Two small stories that fed into fluid meanings of this big story plot are also presented: holding the baby close and working mum/new mumtrepeneur. These findings show nuanced contradictions of contemporary motherhood meanings, within sportswomen's personal and public digital stories.

Originality/value: A big and small story approach grounded in narrative inquiry holds value to learn more about the contemporary digital landscape's shaping of the meanings of sportswomen's identities and lives. Future research is recommended using this approach on additional social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) to expand intertextual understanding of elite athlete mother identities in socio-cultural context, tapping into these underexplored naturalistic data resources.


Publication title

Sport, Social Media, and Digital Technology


J Sanderson






Faculty of Education


Emerald Publishing Limited

Place of publication

United Kingdom



Rights statement

Copyright 2022 Emerald Publishing Limited

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other education and training not elsewhere classified; Internet, digital and social media