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Title: Young motherhood and consumption : an exploration of the consumer practices of a group of young mothers in Bristol
Author: Ponsford, Ruth
Awarding Body: Open University
Current Institution: Open University
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis explores the consumer practices of a group of young mothers in the city of Bristol. A staged and incremental research design was followed, which incorporated aspects of participant observation, activity based focus groups and a photo elicitation exercise. The study focuses on how a group of young mothers managing on limited incomes engaged with expansive markets for maternity and the new baby, and the meaning and emotion they attached to "baby stuff". The research describes how for the young women in this study buying for babies was a priority and part of their everyday caring work, involving the careful management of budgets and the skilful negotiation of consumer markets as well as the negation of mothers' own consumer projects and youth identities. While perhaps a financial necessity, it is suggested that the focus on meeting the 'needs' of babies over those of mothers enables these young women to locate themselves as 'good mothers', who put their children first. The thesis also explores how for the participants in the research material goods, and in particular the adornment and presentation of infants, played a crucial role in displaying maternal competence in the face of a sense of public visibility and condemnation. Appearance was everything and commodities provided protection for both mothers and children from the negative associations of poverty and an inability to consume. Further to this, the research examines the practices of giving gifts to babies and the making of maternal memory as significant aspects of the materiality of maternity for these young women. It is suggested that giving gifts to babies represents an important form of contemporary gift giving, which enables the expression and constitution of relationships between babies and their social networks. The collection and collation of "baby stuff" provides a means of creating childhood memories and histories which can be recalled through these objects. In this part of the investigation the practice of giving "mum" jewellery and getting the names of babies tattooed on mothers' bodies emerge as two furthers sites where these young women make the maternal visible. The study highlights the significance and myriad roles that consumer culture plays in the lives of young mothers, providing a rich account of the experiences and struggles of young mothers through an original lens. This work fills a gap in the literature on motherhood and consumption and makes a relevant contribution to a number of additional areas of scholarship including youth and consumption; low-income consumption; and indeed young motherhood, engaging also with contemporary debates over commercialisation and commodity consumption in late modernity and discourses about 'disordered' working class consumer practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral