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Young mothers speak out: Young Pākehā women's experiences of motherhood.

Early motherhood is a much debated and highly contentious topic. This research aimed to explore young Pākehā women's experiences of motherhood using a feminist qualitative framework. Twelve women, six current young mothers and six former young mothers, were interviewed via focus groups and individual interviews. The analysis revealed that Pākehā culture constructs young mothers as problematic because they challenge the 'traditional' family dominant in Pākehā culture. By having children prior to, rather than after, workforce participation and achieving economic independence, young mothers challenge the prescribed life trajectory for Pākehā women. The women in this study discussed both the positive aspects and the challenges they faced as young mothers. In contrast to common public perceptions and media representations of early motherhood as negative, motherhood positively transformed the women's lives. This was discussed in terms of ceasing destructive activities and gaining motivation to return to education. The young mothers in this study had flexible parenting styles, which allowed them freedom from Pākehā cultural pressure to 'do motherhood' in a particular way. As young mothers, the women had high energy levels and anticipated early future freedom from childcare duties to pursue their dreams. Challenges discussed by the women included incorporating unanticipated early motherhood into long-held life goals, feeling exhausted, having a lack of time for themselves and having too little support. Financial hardship, poverty, judgment and stigma surfaced as major challenges which affected all areas of the women's lives. However, the women also resisted this discrimination by using a range of strategies, which positions them as women with agency, challenging their representation within literature as passive victims. Young women will not use services where they perceive they will be judged for being who they are. As levels of support appear to determine how young women experience motherhood, services have a vital role to play in supporting young mothers. The findings of this study highlighted the complex and contradictory nature of the young mothers' stories, presenting a challenge to simple and stereotypical negative discourses of early motherhood.
Type of thesis
Banks, H. (2008). Young mothers speak out: Young Pākehā women’s experiences of motherhood. (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2519
The University of Waikato
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