Young pregnancy and motherhood : a discourse analysis of context and expertise
Progressing into the 21st century young pregnancy and parenthood in the United Kingdom is a focus of political, media and public attention. The country is described as experiencing an epidemic, with the highest rates of young pregnancy and parenthood recorded in Western Europe. Statistics demonstrate that in 2000 38,690 under 18 year-olds in England became pregnant, of which 44.8% ended in legal termination. In light of this data, and within their remit to address the issue of Social Exclusion, New Labour commissioned a report into young pregnancy resulting in the development and implementation of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. The Strategy has two main aims; namely reducing the rates of young conceptions and providing better support and education for young parents. This thesis argues from a conceptual framework that questions the contested assumption that young pregnancy and parenthood is a problem. A literature review demonstrates a lack of representation of the voices and experiences of young mothers. This directs the research question to ask what is the experience of young mothers in their own words and placed within context? Critical Discourse Analysis is used to examine three examples of context shaping data that includes government policy, a newspaper article and a radio talk show programme. The analysis reveals discourses that suggest there is a right time and framework for motherhood. These discourses form a dialectical relationship with voices and experiences of young mothers that are analysed using Discourse Analysis. This analysis elicits two key central discourses permeating the experiences of young mothers that are the Good- Bad mother binary that informs and exacerbates experiences of maternal ambivalence. Moreover, these discourses inform the practice of discrimination against young mothers. The thesis concludes with a call to listen to the experiences of young mothers in order that their needs might be more fully understood. It suggests that discrimination against young mothers be incorporated into Equal Opportunity and Anti- Discrimination policy.