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Title: The position and opportunities of young mothers : progression or retrogression : a study of the difficulties confronting young mothers in the contemporary family based on a comparative study of working class and middle class families
Author: Gavron, Hannah
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1964
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This thesis is an examination of the problems confronting the young mother with small children today. The first section is concerned with methodology. It explains how the choice of subject was made; it describes how the study was designed, and it records how the sample was selected for the survey. The second section provides a historical background by discussing the various changes affecting the position of women in this country, during the last one hundred and fifty years. From the point of view of this survey, three major consequences are noted. 1. The status of women, in relation to men, has risen considerably. 2. The number of roles which women can perform, in society, have increased and become more varied. 3. Women have experienced an extension in the freedom of choice as to which roles they wish to perform. The third section is a discussion of the results of the interviews. These were conducted with forty eight middle class mothers and forty eight working class mothers. All the mothers in the survey were aged thirty or younger, and had at least one child under five. The most important facts to emerge are: 1. Some of the mothers, more particularly the working class mothers, felt themselves to be leading rather isolated lives. 2. At the time of the interview all the mothers saw their childrenas the central focus of their lives; the role of mother took precedence over all other roles. 3. At the same time the majority did not feel entirely at home in this role. Mothers, both working class and middle class, found themselves unprepared for the responsibilities of motherhood, and for the restrictions it imposed on their lives. 4. Both the middle class and the working class mothers had enlisted the support of their husbands in facing their problems. The middle class husband gave his support by co-operating with his wife in extending her interests outside the home and the children. The working class husband gave his support by devoting his leisure to sharing his wife's roles within the home, and participating regularly in all the household activities. 5. Ninety percent of the total sample was planning to work when the children were older. The significant factor here was thatthis return to work seemed an automatic process, the special decision was to remain at home. The wives in both samples were aware of the conflicts between the role of mother and the role of worker. On the other hand the great majority did not feel that a conflict existed between the role of wife and the role of worker. The concluding section considers the findings of the survey against the wider background of the position of women in this country today. It is suggested that mothers with young children have aspecial problem. There is a conflict of interests between the role of motherhood and the many other roles which women can perform today. The inability to resolve this conflict has meant that many mothers find themselves isolated, in a cul-de-sac, cut off from the central activities of society. In conclusion several methods of improving the situation are proposed: 1. A re-analysis of the education of girls. This would take as its starting point the fact that girls will be performing many different roles at different stages in their life. 'Home' or 'Work' should not be posed as mutually exclusive alternatives. The educational process itself should be divided into three stages. 1) School. 2) Further education or training. 3) Re-training for re-entry to work after a period of absence. 2. A re-examination of the roles and capacities of women as workers. In particular retraining schemes would have to be allied closely to work opportunities. Employers too would have to be educated in: 1) the real nature of women's capabilities, 2) the special problems that married women may encounter owing to their domestic responsibilities. 3. The re-direction of mothers and young children, back into the main stream of society. This could be done: 1) by the promotion of organisations parallel to the Parent Teacher Association, which give mothers the opportunity to relate to each other, to their local community, and to society at large. 2) by the general improvement in the facilities which society provides for young children. 3) by encouraging the community to include young children in a whole range of situations, from which, at present, they are excluded. The aim of all these proposals would be to enable mothers with small children to perform their traditional roles as mothers in ways that complemented rather than curtailed their other contemporary roles.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Individual & Family Studies