Predictable pathways? : an exploration of young women's perceptions of teenage pregnancy and early motherhood
While young women from relatively affluent backgrounds tend to abort their pregnancies, young women from relatively deprived backgrounds tend to keep theirs. It has been suggested that this socio-economic-pregnancy outcome relationship is due to some form of subcultural acceptance of teenage motherhood existing among disadvantaged groups. The aim of this thesis was to assess how young, never pregnant women from diverse social and economic backgrounds perceive teenage pregnancy and early motherhood, and to consider whether these perceptions could, at least in part, explain this relationship. 248 women (mean age 15.6) completed a questionnaire which requested information on their lives, experiences, expectations about their futures, and their views of teenage pregnancy and early motherhood. Six discussion groups were then held with selected sub-groups of these women to explore their views in greater detail. As the thesis had an additional aim of exploring the process embarked upon by women following the confirmation of a teenage pregnancy, semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight women who were currently pregnant, had recently entered motherhood, or had an abortion. It was evident that young women from relatively deprived backgrounds may be more likely than their relatively affluent peers to predict they would keep a teenage pregnancy, and may anticipate early motherhood as having fewer implications for their current situation and futures. It was also evident that young women may view this role as beneficial and plan their pregnancies. However, it was clear that young women from diverse backgrounds may view early motherhood in a predominately negative light, and a range of factors may influence the outcome of a teenage pregnancy. Thus, whilst there was evidence to support the subcultural acceptance hypothesis, it did appear that this acceptance is one which would maintain a young woman on the pathway to motherhood rather than encouraging her to enter this role.