Young Motherhood: The Lived Experiences of Mothers Aged Eighteen to Twenty-Five – An Australian Context
Special Articles / Zalia Powell, Nonie Harris / Scientific Writing and Publishing in Social Work
In Australia young motherhood is a controversial ‘issue’ that divides opinions, challenges societal paradigms and defines the women who experience it.This chapter presents the findings of aqualitative research study which had three key aims; to explore motherhood as experienced by women aged eighteen to twenty-five within an Australian context, to seek the opinions of young mothers on suggestions for social work practice and to contribute to the evidence based research that informs social work practice. The following themes emerged from the young women’s stories; good mother discourses, age and motherhood, choice, joys and successes, struggles, stigma, support, isolation and regrets. These research findings contributes to evidence based social work practice with young mothers and promotes further research into the subjective experiences of mothers.
Young motherhood is a contemporary source of debate in policy and media circles both within Australia and abroad. This controversy is seen particularly in regards to welfare reform, educational attainment and employment (Baragwanath, 1997;Bradbury, 2011; Butler, Winkworth, McArthur,& Smyth, 2010; Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 2011; Scott, 2011).
Conversationsaround young motherhood as a social problem are captured in headlines such as, “Teen mums ‘compound’ disadvantage” (Rose, 2010), “Teen parents targeted in welfare crackdown” (Kirk, 2011), “Discrimination is teenage mums’ biggest challenge” (Turnbull, 2012) and “Young Mums’ Rose Coloured Glasses” (Lunn, 2009).Contrasting with these negative portrayals of young mothersare the stories of success and, also, social support services run by organisations across the country.Women’s Health and Community Partnerships Unit (2006), Youth Action and Policy Association [YAPA], (2006);and Micah Projects Inc. (2012), to name only a few,advocate for young mothers and provide much needed holistic support.
Thepersonal values of social justice, empowerment and gender equalityinformed this study,which was undertaken from a radical feminist approach(Neuman, 2003; O’Reilly, 2008). Conducting research from thisperspective encouraged the examination ofthe underlying influences informing women’s actions and provided a perspective on the social world; a language to analyse and describe; a context and vision for the research; and tentative explanations against which to measure and analyse findings (Blaikie, 2010; May, 2011).
Research Purpose and Aims
The purpose of therensearch was to explore motherhood in contemporary Australian society as experienced by mothers aged between eighteen and twenty-five. The research aimed to:
Relevant Research for Social Work Practice
This research is particularly relevant to the social work profession as it addressesprinciples of human rights and social justice for young mothers – fundamental to liberating and empowering people to achieve social justice and equality (Australian Association of Social Workers [AASW], 2002). Ife statesthat “...there is no doubt that for many women the most significant struggle for human rights lies within the domestic sphere...” indicating a strong need for a social work focus in bothpractice and research (2008, p. 53).
This study was contextualised within six key areas of literature related to feminism, motherhood, young motherhood and social work and motherhood.
Young Mothers as a Minority Group
Despite the focus on young motherhood as an object of societal concern, rates of birth in women under twenty-five continues to decline. This paradox suggests that the view of young motherhood as problematic is driven by changing social and political paradigms in regards to the role of women (Wilson & Huntington, 2006).
Current trends in Australian motherhood see many women waiting longer to conceive, with the national average maternal age increasing over an eight-year period from an average age of first conception of 27.9 to 30.0 in 2009 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2011). The rate of first time Australian mothers aged over thirty-five rose by six percent over a nine year period with the rate of fertility for women older than thirty-five exceeding that of women aged between twenty and twenty-four years (ABS, 2012). Women aged between 30 and 34 continue to hold the highest fertility rate of all age groups. There are said to be many factors influencing this societal trend including the age of marriage increasing, concerns for financial stability and women’s engagement in career and educational pursuit. It is this contemporary trend in maternal age that sees mothers aged twenty-five or younger as deviants from the norm (AIHW, 2011).
The Current Context of Young Women’s Lives
Young Australian women are experiencingunique challenges – an understanding of which is vital to both policy design and research direction. Harris (2002) emphasises a significant gap in research that focuses on young Australian women’s experiences and circumstances. Harris encourages a contemporary examinationof the social, political and economic elements affecting the environment for young women in which many experience “...more education, but fewer jobs; more opportunities, but less security; greater formal equality, but more complicated experiences of discrimination, abuse and injustice” (2002, p. 35). Baker (2007) contributes to this line of thought with an emphasis on the political nature of young women’s personal lives; with covert subordination of young women continuing despite concepts of freedom, choice and ‘girl power’. She encourages caution when viewing young women as the unshackled beneficiaries of social progress. Bradbury (2006, p. 1) furthers the discussion of inequality and social justice for young mothers emphasising the need for more appropriate services to support “...one of the most disadvantaged groups in Australian society”.
The ‘Good Mother’
Good mother discourses have been discussed and analysed in both historical and contemporary times and remain a significant focal point for feminist research into motherhood (O’Reilly, 2008; Rich, 1986). What constitutes ‘good mothering’ is influenced by social, historical and cultural factors, however it is argued that the ethic of care for children is a social norm valued by most Western countries (Rock, 2007).Dominant Western understandings of ‘good mothers’ revolve around the woman’s willingness and ability to make moral choices in an effort to put the needs of children first. This child centred focus is a societal expectation that encourages women to become self-sacrificing to their offspring in order to maintain their place as a ‘good mother’ (May, 2008).
Feminist Adrianne Rich(1986)understood maternal self-sacrifice to be driven by a patriarchal paradigm in which women must bend to the ‘institution’ of motherhood and disconnect from themselves; or see themselves as deviant or unnatural. ‘Good’ mothers are those who are married and can provide a stable home, food and education for their children. This socially moulded discourse requires mothers to act ‘responsibly’ and behave in a fashion that is culturally recognisable and acceptable within current cultural and societal paradigms (Goodwin &Huppatz, 2010; May, 2008).
Motherhood: Cultural and Societal Paradigms
Phoenix (cited in Faulkner & Jackson, 1993) explores the social and cultural influences on motherhood,challenging narrow and simplistic views of culture as a deciding factor in one’s choice to become a mother. Phoenix emphasises the concept of young motherhood as understood by society as problematic, arguing that this is due to negative social constructions of young motherhood in Western culture.
It is suggested that views of young motherhood as deviant stem from three factors influencing dominant reproductive ideology including;controversy around viewing women under twenty-five years as ‘adult’, the likelihood of young mothers to be unmarried and the economic dependence of young mothers on the state(Phoenixcited in Faulkner & Jackson, 1993).
Power and Motherhood
In her critique of motherhood as experience and institution, Adrianne Rich (1986) explores the power and powerlessness of motherhood as experienced in patriarchal culture. Rich portrays motherhood as a concept that is institutionalised in nature – a private role of ‘powerless responsibility’ that is exploited and controlled. Rich (1986) argues that the silent workings of motherhood act to support, maintain and nurture the patriarchal system and that motherhood possesses an unspoken history and suffers control and manipulation at the hands of men. This account provides an understanding of motherhood as socially constructed, ideologically drivenand influenced by issues of power, identity, responsibility and dominant societal paradigms. Rich places significant value on the importance of women’s personal and political experiences of motherhood, emphasising the power of subjective experience and thus supporting and complimenting my own research style and focus (1986).
Working with Young Mothers
Much of the core practice of social work is committed to enhancing the wellbeing of women and girls, driven by social works’emphasis on human rights (International Federation of Social Workers [IFSW], 2012).
With adolescence and young adulthood representing periods ofbiological, psychological and social change for young women – motherhood can complicate their already fragile psychosocial experience (Price-Robertson, 2010). Young mothers are experiencing increasing rates of postnatal depression linked to family conflict, low self-esteem and fewer social supports (Reid & Meadows-Oliver, 2007).Young mothers are also more likely to come from low socio-economic backgrounds, engage in anti-social behavior, misuse alcohol and drugs, experience substantial social stigmaand struggle to achieve in their education. These factors undoubtedly influence their positioning as a vulnerable group in societyand as an important target group for effective social work practice (Price-Robertson, 2010).
A recurring themein the literature is the view of young mothers as a difficult to engage and the significant barriers to service delivery for young mothers (Loxton,Williams& Adamson, 2007). Young mothers report experiencing judgment, hostility and criticism at the hands of social service institutions and health care services society which is felt to be a major barrier for many young mothers in accessing support from professional helpers (Price-Robertson, 2010).
Thequalitative methodology and method chosen for this research project reflect the priorities of feminist research which”...begins and constantly returns to the subjective shared experience...within feminist theoretical production the living participating ‘I’ is seen as a dimension which must be included in an adequate analysis” (Rose citedin Howe, 1992,p. 120).
Data Collection Methods
For this research, data was collected in two ways; a review of posts on anonline forum and individual in-depth interviews with four mothers aged eighteen to twenty-five.These two sources of data were chosen to increase the scope and depth of experiences captured. As Neuman (2003, p. 116) describes, feminist researchers will often”...use multiple research techniques...to give a voice to women”.
Four women residing in Australia, who were pregnant or mothers prior to turning twenty-five, agreed to participate in an in-depth interview. Participants were recruited voluntarilyusing various methods including the distribution of an online recruitment flyer (Neuman, 2003). As my area of inquiry did not require a single specific research site, I sourced my research participants from health centres, a local playgroup targeted at young mothers and local online social networking sites frequented by mothers.
Interviews wereaudiotaped, sixty minutes in duration and explored participant experiences of pregnancy and motherhood in regards to emotional support, financial issues, sense of ‘self’, social reactions and expectations, peer and family relationships, engagement with social welfare services and views on the effectiveness of available support and services for mothers aged eighteen to twenty-five.
For the second method of data collection I turned to the content of an online forum for young mothers on the popular Australian pregnancy and parenting website Essential Baby®.Essential Baby® is a regularly accessed online forum and provided data that had been documented over a significant period of time and acted as an online ‘conversation’ (Fayard&DeSanctis, 2009).
Online discussions, or ‘threads’, in the ‘Young Mums’ section of the Essential Baby® forum were selected for the study. I chose to select data from a twelve month time frame (November 2011 to November 2012) as the nature of online conversation is time-rich and participants can “...pursue discussions for months or even years...” (Fayard et al., 2009, p. 1).
To analyse the data gathered I engaged in a qualitative thematic analysis which Roberts and Taylor (2002, p. 427) describe as “... a method for identifying themes, essences orpatterns within the text... [that] allows a descriptive interpretation of human experiences”.
Using a system of constant comparison I identified themes and sub themes in the data that were relevant to the research purpose and aims. I sought to discover hidden or implicit themes by locating what Roberts and Taylor (2002, p. 428) define as “...a fine weave in the tapestry of the conversation...” and then linking these subtle words or expressions to the themes in the data.
This research was guided by the Australian Association of Social Workers [AASW]Code of Ethics(2002), the core document informing the ethical practice of the social work profession.Informed consent was an area of consideration and consent was obtained voluntarily during the recruiting stage of the research and emphasised throughout participation and following the in-depth interviews.
Findings: The Experiences of Young Motherhood
The responses of participants from both the online forum and in depth interviews have been interwoven to create a ‘conversation’ of lived experience. The findings tell the stories of young mothers through the use of their direct quotes which illuminate the experiences of young motherhood.
Good Mother/Bad Mother
‘Good mothers’ was a recurring and dominant theme both in the online forum and in the data collected from interviews. Young women’s ideas about what constituted a ‘good mother’ were remarkably similar; presenting as a ‘checklist’ style criteria on which one could be deemed ‘ready’ or ‘not ready’, a ‘good mother’ or a ‘bad mother’. The following perspective encapsulates the views of the respondents:
Good mums...they look responsible, they spend time with their kids, they look clean, and their kids are well behaved and well dressed. (Renee, Interview)
A common discussion point, ‘readiness’ to mother was linked to accomplishments prior to having children. Perceptions of ‘readiness’ held by the mothers can be viewed in light of Ribbens’ (1994, p. 12) statement that “...child rearing may also be judged by reference to what contributes ‘success’ within the existing institutional arrangements of western societies as this forum participant explained:
...we were ready (nice home, cars outright, no debts, healthy savings, travelled the world etc.). (Mandy, Online Forum)
Being involved in a heterosexual committed relationship (preferably marriage) was the most agreed upon factor for ensuring one’s place at the ‘good mother’ table. This focus on ‘good mothers’ as women whose children were raised in a committed relationship reflects the thoughts of feminist writers such as May (2008) who suggest thatmothers are held responsible for both the quality of their own ‘good’ motherhood and for ensuring that their children receive ‘good’ fatherhood.This patriarchal emphasis suggests that ‘healthy’ families consist of two ‘appropriate’ gendered role models, and is evident in the perspectives of mothers in this study as the following comments demonstrate:
If you can provide a stable, loving & healthy relationship for a baby, and then a child, then by all means, go for it [conceive early]. (Annie, Online Forum)
Age and Motherhood
There appeared to be considerable variation in the opinions of mothers as to what age was considered ‘too young’ to mother. A recurring theme present in the discussions was that age was not necessarily an indicator of ‘good mothering’ or being ‘ready’ to become a mother. For many women engaged in the discussion, age just simply didn’t matter:
Age doesn’t have a lot to do with parenting ability. (Annie,Online Forum)
You can never prepare for motherhood, no matter what age you are...you’ll find a new level of maturity you didn’t know was in you. (Rebecca,Online Forum)
The Choice to ‘Mother’ Young
‘Choice’ to become a mother was a theme recurrent throughout both the forum and interview data. Many respondents had planned their pregnancy and young maternal age was not seen as a deterrent; instead it was considered the ideal. The reasons provided for mothering young reflect research findings by Phoenix (1993, cited in Faulkner & S. Jackson, 1993) in which young women chose to conceive early to avoid being ‘tied down’ later in life and to increase their chance of an uncomplicated pregnancy and healthy child. The following comments describe the respondent’s decision to mother young:
I absolutely love that I have been young and healthy through my pregnancy and birth, and that we have lots of energy to play.(Brooke, Online Forum)
Despite appearing confident in their choice to mother, conceiving ‘early’ was often validated or explained by mothers using the same criteria of houses, marriage, security and ‘readiness’ that was portrayed by the ‘good mother’ ideal:
We were committed and both wanted to have kids in our early 20s...we both had careers and were in a good financial position. (Nikki,Online Forum)
Choice was again raised by mothers when voicing their frustration that becoming a mother under the age of twenty-five was automatically assumed to be an unplanned event.Wilson and Huntington (2005, p. 64) connect this experience with current social paradigms, stating that “...the idea that [young] motherhood is problematic ignores the possibility that [young] women weigh up their opportunity costs when they continue a pregnancy to term, no doubt in much the same way as older women who opt for later parenthood”.When asked if she felt that her age was connected to the assumption of an unplanned pregnancy, Amanda was firm in her perspective and reflected the views of others within the study:
Interviewer: Do you think a woman in her thirties would be asked whether her pregnancy was planned or unplanned?
No. Most of my friends with children are older and they’re like “You get asked that?” (Amanda, Interview)
Amanda’s experience provides an example of the pressure young mothers experienced in needing to validate their choice, which connects with O’Reilly’s (2010. p, 9) point that young mothers “...defy the social script of carefully delayed and well-planned pregnancy” and are thus engaged in continuing the feminist struggle for reproductive rights.
Joys and Successes
Respondents were firm in expressing the ways in which a child had enriched and enhanced their own quality of life and wellbeing. Overwhelmingly, mothers spoke about the ways in which their children had enhanced their sense of self, their direction in life and ultimately brought joy and satisfaction to their lived experience:
It’s [becoming a mother] made me stronger. I’ve got them to think about. I couldn’t picture my life any other way. (Sarah, Interview)
Motherhood and Struggles
Of the difficulties of motherhood expressed by respondents financial strugglewas a theme shared by many, who experienced stress and pressure when becoming parents impacted on their financial circumstance:
I had [baby] at a stage when I had no money, no job, was in a relationship that wasn’t well established... I brought her into less than ideal circumstances. (Maria,Online Forum)
The other major struggle experienced was the overwhelming nature of mother role with respondents describing feeling unprepared for motherhood. Women spoke candidly about feelings of desperation that defined their experiences of the struggles they had faced as mothers:
I had to learn to live without my parents, learn how to live with my partner, figure out a budget and look after a really colicky newborn while studying in the space of a couple of months. It was incredibly hard with minimal support (Sonia,Online Forum)
Stigma – Society’s Gaze
Stigma and negative societal views of young mothers were found to have affected the majority of the women involved in study. When asked about the social expectations or reactions to their roles as mothers, women described negative interactions that they had encountered with people in their communities:
I remember shopping with mum and [first baby] was four or five weeks old and this lady thought he was mum’s baby and mum said no, no that’s my grandson and then you get ‘the looks’.I had lots of judgement. (Amanda, Interview)
I get foul looks, people sniggering and making extremely rude comments...they don’t know me, they’re only judging me because my face is young. (Kate, Online Forum)
They just assume that you will automatically fit the stereotype. (Kate,Online Forum)
In talking about the impact of stigma and negative societal reaction to young motherhood, the mothers expressed their views on what the dominant and negative stereotypes were:
...mothers who smoke, drink and do drugs through their pregnancy, abuse their children, neglect them have a different [boyfriend] every week... (Rose,Online Forum)
Respondents were very clear to draw the line between themselves and “those mums”, and placed considerable judgement on those they felt were giving all young mothers a bad reputation.
Stigma or negative stereotypes were experienced not only in the responses from strangers in the community,but at the hands of medical or helping professions as well. The following experiences were familiar to many mothers:
It [stigma] started at the hospital with the midwives. I asked “can [baby] go back to the nursery so I can rest?” and the midwife turned around to me and said “You chose to have a baby and now you need to look after him.” So I went home the next morning. I felt judged. (Sarah, Interview)
As soon as they (helping professions) know how old you are, or how old you aren’t, straight away the attitude changes. (Cassie, Interview)
A discussion about stigma and social norms was also seen from the perspective that it was not only a mother’s age that resulted in judgement and societal disapproval; but a broader culture of judgement impacting upon young people and mothers of any age:
Young people, with or without children, are constantly judged. (Zoe,Online Forum
Mothers spoke in depth about the importance of emotional, practical and financial support in enhancing or adding value to their role as a mother. For the majority of women it became clear that the main source of their support came from immediate family members,particularly their own mothers and their partner or husband:
I’m really close to my mum so I talk to my mum a lot. (Amanda, Interview)
We didn’t get by if it wasn’t for my mum and dad. They bought a lot of stuff. If mum finished work early she would pick [baby] up for me, things like that. My mother is my best friend. (Sarah,Interview)
Despite articulating the importance of family and partner support, community or social welfare support did not play a significant support role formany young mothers. The following quote is representative of the experiences described:
I didn’t really have any contact with social work or anything. Didn’t have a midwife visit or anything. When [first baby] was a bit older I did a parenting program [self-referral] because he had difficult behaviours. (Sarah,Interview).
Isolation and Loneliness
Loneliness and isolation were significant experiences for many of the mothers. Respondents spoke in depth about the impact of having a child and becoming a mother on their ability to maintain or engage relationships with peers. The change in lifestyle and priorities that accompanies motherhood was felt to create a divide between those with children, and those without:
[Becoming a mother] kind of pushed my sisters away a little bit...I can’t just jump in the car and go clubbing with them you know...I lost a lot of my friends when I was pregnant. They just left me.(Renee, Interview)
Friendships with peers were limited to those similar-aged friends who had children themselves, immediate family membersor mothers ten to fifteen years older those involved in this study. It was emphasised that once a woman had become a mother it was often easier to make friends with other mothers as motherhood, not age, became the criteria for lasting friendship:
The [friends] I see mainly have children and they’re mainly older. I’m the youngest, so I’m still trying to work out where I fit in...because I’m about ten years younger than the rest of them. None of the people that I know that are my age have kids. (Amanda, Interview)
I’ve got friends much older than me like in their thirties. (Cassie, Interview)
Linking theory to practice: Opportunities for Social Work Practice
Consistent with a feminist framework, this research sought the expertise of the women themselves by encouraging the voices, stories and unique lived experiences of young mothers to come through (DeVault, 1999). The following suggestions for effective social work with young mothers are informed by insight into the specific needs of mothers as voiced by the women themselves.
Service Provision: What Worked?
Despite the majority of mothers reporting very minimal contact with social welfare support services, those who had emphasised the importance of making friendship connections when receiving support. Mother’s groups, play groups and community health centre initiatives of the type were understood to be valuable in connecting young women to other mothers and thus reducing experiences of loneliness and isolation, as seen by Renee’s experience:
I went to a six week parenting course at the community health centre and the women I met there are still the mothers I catch up with weekly for mothers group [two years later]. (Renee Interview)
The idea of meeting other mothers in a group setting appealed to the respondents, however they emphasised that specific ‘young mum’ groups were not as inviting and that they were more likely to attend groups where age was not specifically targeted:
With [first baby] I went to a young mums group and they just weren’t people that I wanted...they had no goals, they were just happy to fling from man to man, have baby after baby. I didn’t want to become that. I want to have a career, I want have a house, I want to do all these things. (Sarah, Interview)
Postnatal Mental Health Support
Postnatal mental health support was raised as a key suggestion by Amanda whospoke of her experiences with social welfare services in regards to her postnatal mental health. She expressed the view that a gap in knowledge exists not only for young mothers in terms of postnatal mental health care, but for their families and friends as well:
The thing is, that you expect the depression or anxiety to start straight away after the birth… so maybe it’s a case of upping the education in those classes so that partners and families around the new mum know that if she starts looking distressed. (Amanda, Interview)
Amanda expressed her concern in particular for other mothers who may not have prior involvement with mental health support. Amanda expressed that antenatal education for women focussed on the immediate time after birth for postnatal depression despite the fact that depressive symptoms may not emerge for women until after they have disconnected from parental support services (Royal College of Psychiatrists [RCPsych], 2012).
This study found that young mothers experience significant social pressure to achieve ‘good mother’ status and act in accordance with a patriarchal ‘social script’ when embarking on their journey into motherhood (O’Reilly, 2008). A social expectation and pressure to achieve such good mother criteria was shared by the respondents; an experience which May (2003, p. 473) attributes to the “...social norms around the social institution of motherhood [that] may seem to be natural but [are] in fact socially constructed”.
Within an Australian context respondents believed good mothers ultimately played by society’s ‘rules’ and were; ‘ready’ to nurture, marry, be self-sacrificing, financially stable and able to care for and provide for their children. Despite the positive way in which the mothers expressed or in some cases paraded their pre-mothering achievements, I noted parallels between their experiences and Rich’s (1986) warning to mothers of the impossible standards of patriarchal perfection that women are meant to achieve.
To ‘just’ motheris not enough to have accomplished, and in order to justify their social role as nurturer many women felt the need to first succeed in all other areas of their lives. It became apparentthat to be a ‘good’ mother one must first be a ‘good’ woman, ‘good’ citizen and a ‘good’ social being. This meant young women experienced pressure tomeet the societal expectations of what women are to achieve in order to gain life experience, autonomy and thus mothering ‘readiness’ (May, 2003).
With less time to prove their ‘success’ in the multitude ofexpectations and roles before motherhood young mothers seemed to be less likely than their older counterparts to be ‘ready’ for motherhood in society’s eyes. Thus, the mothers are viewed and indeed view themselves to have abandoned the ‘illusionary’ freedom, choice and ‘girl power’ to which they were entitled and for which their foremothers had worked so hard to obtain (O’Reilly, 2010; Rich, 1986). I concluded that the ‘feminist freedom’ that young womencan experience is thus co-opted and weighed down by patriarchal societal demands; and the pressure to succeed and achieve both within the home and now more than ever, in the public realm, is very much a part of the young motherhood experience (Harris, 2002; Rich, 1986).
Stigma played a large and damaging role in the experience of motherhood for young mothers. It is apparent through the stories of mothers, that they felt their maternal age held with it the societal assumption that one could not be young and also fit the ‘criteria’ of a ‘good’ mother. This was noted with many mothers distancing themselves and their actions from the stigma that came attached to the label ‘young mum’. The terms ‘good mothers’ and ‘young mothers’ were not considered interchangeable or coexistent in nature; rather a mother was one or the other. Stigma wasexperienced both at the hands of strangersand those of the helping profession; particularly medical or health professionals who had contact with mothers in antenatal care or following birth.
The majority of mothers experienced loneliness and isolation and I noted that their mothering responsibilities and priorities acted as barriers to friendships with peers. The respondents turned instead to new social circles of women aged in their thirties who were mothers as well. This experience reflects the work of Ribbens(1994) who identified a similar trend where mothers would interact socially with other mothers rather than those without children.
Although opportunities to meet other mothers in the community were identified as important to Renee, and others, I concluded that specific ‘young mum’ support or parent education groups were not as inviting. Mothers indicated instead that they wanted to connect with other women as ‘mothers’ not as ‘young mothers’.
Finally, for the respondents, maternal age was understood to be a less important factor than one’s maturity and thatyoung maternal age had positive influences on their ability to mother well. I concluded that the choice to mother young was influenced by a desire to have more time in later life, to retire comfortably, be present longer in the lives of grandchildren and experience a healthy and less complicated pregnancy.
Areas for Further Research
In light of this exploration into the experiences of young mothers, the following areas have been identified for further research:
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