Positive turning points? : young women's experiences of teenage pregnancy, motherhood and education

Brown, Kay

September 2015

Thesis or dissertation

© 2015 Kay Brown. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This is a qualitative interpretive phenomenological study grounded in a feminist research ethic that draws on the narratives of fourteen young women, aged fifteen to eighteen. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore the young women's experiences of pregnancy, motherhood and education. The aim of this thesis is to examine how the young women believed becoming pregnant in their teenage years shaped and influenced their lives, with a particular focus on their education. The dichotomous constructions of teenage pregnancy in public, political and academic discourses as either highly problematic or as a positive and remarkable turning point are critically considered. Attention is paid to the value judgements that underlie these constructions of teenage pregnancy, problematising the kinds of agency that are positioned as appropriate for young women.

The young women who participated in this research framed their pregnancy as an opportunity to change and improve their lives through education. They defined success through traditional definitions of citizenship and inclusion and viewed themselves as either socially included or socially excluded on the premise of whether they obtained paid employment. It is argued their narratives are shaped by feelings of stigma and shame and by recognition of their frequent positioning as 'problems' to be fixed. It is asserted that both constructions of teenage pregnancy as either 'negative' or as a 'positive' turning are invariably problematic as both overtly value and uncritically privilege education and employment. It is argued that both constructions position young women as projects to be worked on and to be transformed and improved, providing a limited and limiting definition of a successful and positive life.

Department of Education Studies, The University of Hull
Sponsor (Organisation)
Plowright, David
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