Date of Graduation

Spring 2018


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Jake Simmons


relational dialectics theory, identity, motherhood, millennial, interpersonal communication, autoethnography

Subject Categories

Other Communication


This thesis uses relational dialectics theory (RDT) to make sense of the experiences of millennial mothers. RDT is a heuristic theory of relational meaning making and asserts that relationships and identities are negotiated in states of competing and contradictory discourses. This thesis can be conceptualized as two projects: autoethnography and qualitative inquiry using semi-structured interviews. Autoethnography explores the researcher’s own experience with the topic. Interview participants were asked a series of questions about their lives as millennial mothers to identify competing discourses, management strategies, and implications for identity. Three primary tensions were identified of millennial vs. mother, authenticity vs. persona, and connectedness vs. autonomy. The management strategies and identity implications fall in line with each dialectical tension. This research indicates that motherhood is a contradiction with millennial, so conclusions reveal a variety of balancing and sense-making acts to discern experiences as a millennial mother.


© Shawna L. Merrill

Open Access