Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Presenting the Good Mother: Experiences of Canadian Adolescent Mothers Living in Rural Communities

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Presenting the Good Mother: Experiences of Canadian Adolescent Mothers Living in Rural Communities

Article excerpt

Background

Adolescent mothers are bridging two developmentally important stages in a woman's life: adolescence and motherhood. Adolescence is an important transitional stage between childhood and becoming an adult, with the developmental task of forming an identity (Fleming, 2004). Adolescence can be a time of trials and conflicts, while navigating through a significant developmental stage (Sadler, 2011). This turbulent time may be aggravated by impaired problem-solving skills and limited abstract thinking abilities, which are both just beginning to develop (Currie et al., 2012). These skills may be inconsistently applied, leading to increased risk-taking behaviours, such as experimenting with drugs or permissive sexual behaviours causing additional stress (Fleming, 2004; Sadler, 2011). The substantial task of developing self-identity may be more difficult when the transition to motherhood is simultaneously occurring with its own challenges.

Transitioning into being a mother, in the year after one's first birth, has been shown to often be a challenging time (Brunton, Wiggins, & Oakley, 2011). One UK-based research synthesis reviewed 60 studies about the transition to motherhood for mothers of all ages (Brunton et al., 2011). The main findings of this review were that motherhood is physically, mentally, and emotionally overwhelming, and women often question their ability to be good mothers. The transition to motherhood has been found to have significant effects on relationships with peers and intimate partners, which are also known to be important developmental tasks of adolescence (Brunton et al., 2011; Sadler, 2011). As women transition, they develop friendships with other new mothers for support (Brunton et al., 2011). Although pregnancy has been shown to strengthen romantic relationships for adult-age mothers, parenting has also been identified as a stressful and divisive time for both adolescent and adult women (Brunton et al., 2011; DeVito, 2010). The literature reviewed by Brunton et al. also suggests that navigating relationship changes and challenges may be particularly difficult for adolescents who are only beginning to develop their own peer groups and becoming intimately involved with a partner.

In the literature, many adolescent mothers report being caught in between the two worlds of adolescence and motherhood (Clemmens, 2003; DeVito, 2010). In a metasynthesis of 18 qualitative studies focused on adolescent mothers, Clemmons found the idea of "living in two different worlds" to be an overarching metaphor for an adolescent mother's life (p. 96). Yet while navigating these two worlds was found to be difficult and full of hardships, the literature indicates that it was also seen as a time for transforming oneself for the better because of the baby (Clemmens, 2003). Though Clemmens' meta-synthesis provides some insight into the experiences of adolescent mothers, it drew primarily on studies from the United States, and did not account for the experiences of living in rural environments. There continues to be a need for more recent research related to the experiences of adolescent mothers.

While there is a dearth of information specifically focusing on rural adolescent motherhood in the first year postpartum, rural health research can provide some insight into the broader issues of rural living for women, especially related to maternal and child health. The literature indicates that rural living is associated with poorer health outcomes across all residents (Pong, DesMeules, & Legace, 2009). Rurality was identified by the Romanow Report (2002) as a key determinant of health. The Romanow Report, which examined the Canadian healthcare system, identified that as a population, rural residents had poorer health status, fewer available health resources, and greater difficulty accessing health services despite their significant need for primary health care. When compared to those living in urban centres, rural dwellers have been shown to have less favourable nutrition habits, higher smoking rates, and are less physically active (DesMeules et al. …

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