Negotiating independence : a qualitative study examining how mothers and teenage daughters understand and respond to risk
This thesis reports on a qualitative study examining mother and teenage
daughter responses to risk and negotiated independence. Parenting has
gone up the political agenda fuelled by changes in family structure and moral
panics over teenage pregnancy, risk taking and anti-social behaviour. As a
result, political focus on parental responsibilities has advanced dominant
perceptions that parents are increasingly liable for their children's behaviour
with particular emphasis on monitoring and supervision. This thesis builds on
recent work challenging simplistic and deterministic accounts as flawed and
unhelpful, in favour of calls for more in-depth qualitative work. This allows
exploration of monitoring and supervision as part of the parenUchild
relationship and embedded within broader family and social processes.
Data were collected from forty-two interviews undertaken with seven
mother/daughter dyads over two years. Data collected focused on aspects of
risk taking including mother/daughter negotiations and were located within
biographical and social contexts. Data were thematically analysed using a
computer software package.
Findings suggested maternal anxiety was primarily caused by fear of male
violence and sexual threat. Mothers adopted practical strategies in an
attempt to keep daughters safe. More significant were ongoing relationships
in which negotiations about risk took place. Communication emphasised
democracy, reciprocity, trust, commitment to intimacy . and mutual
understanding. Maternal responses to risk taking were pragmatic focused on
harm minimisation and providing support, irrespective of feelings of
Daughters were keen to minimise maternal anxiety and maintain good
relationships even though they had different perceptions of risk concerns.
Irrespective of social circumstances dyads experienced relationships as
supportive and central to everyday survival. Service development and policy
implications responsive to maternal needs within 'ordinary families' were explored, as an essential requirement for mothers responding to the
increasingly complex task of negotiating risk within the context of extended
transitions and fears about male threat.