Transitions to motherhood: young women’s desire for respectability, responsibility and moral worth

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


In the UK, teenage motherhood is depicted in the media and government policy as highly negative and problematic. Pregnant and mothering young women are constructed as socially excluded members of society who belong to an assumed underclass who lack responsibility and respectability. This article draws on the views and perspectives of pregnant and mothering young women in the east of England to examine how positive and successful subjects are defined and understood. It is illustrated how this group of working-class young women negotiated and resisted their positioning as ‘unfit’ mothers and ‘bad’ citizens. Central to their narratives was a desire to reassert themselves as respectable and responsible individuals through engaging in education and employment in order to achieve financial independence. It is argued that this notion of respectability provides a limited and limiting understanding of inclusion and moral worth for working-class young women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Early online date17 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Aug 2019



  • Transition
  • motherhood
  • Mothers: education
  • education
  • narratives
  • identity
  • Parenthood
  • exclusion
  • employment
  • qualitative
  • Interpretative phenomenological analysis

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