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

  • Kay Marie Calver

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


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.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Hull

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