'Your Age Don't Determine Whether You're A Good Mum': Reframing the Discourse of Deviance Ascribed to Teenage Mothers

By Vincent, Kerry; Thomson, Pat | Social Alternatives, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

'Your Age Don't Determine Whether You're A Good Mum': Reframing the Discourse of Deviance Ascribed to Teenage Mothers


Vincent, Kerry, Thomson, Pat, Social Alternatives


Across the developed world, pregnant and mothering teenagers are the subject of public concern and debate. Initiatives which target these young women, such as the UK's ten-year national campaign to reduce teenage conceptions and increase participation in education, employment and training (Social Exclusion Unit [SEU] 1999), has ensured that they have remained high on the policy agenda and consequently, also in public consciousness. Alongside this, sensationalised media coverage of exceptional cases, as illustrated above, also ensures their high visibility. This paper challenges common perceptions about teenage motherhood by highlighting important aspects of young mothers' experiences that are marginalised within dominant representations. Drawing on the experiences of a small group of teenage mothers in England we examine how they responded to dominant discourses about teenage motherhood and what impact it had on their day-to-day lives. We reveal how their motherhood experiences were made more difficult because of these stigmatised representations. We show that they are not the feckless, unmotivated young women that they are portrayed to be but rather, are often doing the best they can in circumstances that are far from ideal. We use the notion of discourse to situate our argument and we begin by briefly outlining how we use this term.

Discourse and Young Mothers

We understand the term 'discourse' to be a culturally constructed representation of reality, not an exact copy. Discourse governs, through the production of categories of knowledge and assemblages of texts, what it is possible to talk about and what is not (the taken for granted rules of inclusion/exclusion); as such, it re/produces both power and knowledge simultaneously. Discourse defines subjects, framing and positioning in terms of who it is possible to be and what it is possible to do (Foucault 1977).

The discourse ascribed to young mothers is that of deviance. Within research and policy, teenage pregnancy and motherhood is represented almost exclusively in negative terms. Adverse social, educational and health correlates of teenage pregnancy derived from large-scale epidemiological research construct teenage pregnancy as costly to the individual as well as to the welfare state (see for example SEU 1999). Despite research which highlights clear links between teenage pregnancy and social disadvantage and inequality (Carabine 2007; Wilson and Huntingdon 2005), the 'problem' of teenage pregnancy and motherhood is located with a particular group of girls who are judged to be ignorant about contraception and to have low aspirations (SEU 1999). Teenage mothers are seen as being in the fast-lane to adulthood - beginning a family prior to securing the educational qualifications that will supposedly ensure their economic self-sufficiency (McDermott and Graham 2005; Selman 2003). In not conforming to current norms about the appropriate age to begin childbearing, they have become moral scapegoats who are seen as having the 'wrong' values, the 'wrong' aspirations and making the 'wrong' choices. Media representations that focus exclusively on exceptional cases while ignoring much of young women's actual achievements and everyday experiences do little to challenge these dominant, one-sided constructions of teenage pregnancy and motherhood.

Individualised, pathologised discourses such as these marginalise the part played by wider social structural inequalities and invalidate alternative meaning-makings associated with motherhood for these young women. First, there is little acknowledgement that women are society's child-bearers. In the developed world, 'rational economic man' assumptions prevail and both men and women are expected to be economically active. Childbearing becomes an inconvenience to be fitted around employment which is deemed to be more important. Productive labour is afforded high social status while reproductive labour is not. This creates an invisible source of tension for many working mothers (Lee and Gramotnev 2006). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

'Your Age Don't Determine Whether You're A Good Mum': Reframing the Discourse of Deviance Ascribed to Teenage Mothers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.