Young mothers, Education and Social Exclusion

Rudoe, Naomi Rachel (2011). Young mothers, Education and Social Exclusion. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ee5d

Abstract

This thesis examines the education and social inclusion and exclusion of young mothers, focusing on the experiences of sixteen pregnant young women and mothers attending a course of antenatal education during 2007. I use a critical feminist approach to examine the meanings of education in this setting alongside the young women's mothering identities. The thesis interrogates the effects of New Labour's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy in relation to the young women in my study. I analyse how the concept of 'social exclusion' has cast the 'teenage mother' as responsible for reproducing a cycle of disadvantage, obscuring the socially including aspects of young motherhood. I argue that policy constructions of teenage motherhood are contradicted by the lived experience of the young mothers in my study. In defiance of discourses of the teenage mother as unfit mother, the young women construct themselves in many cases as ready for motherhood and as resilient adults who choose to 'take responsibility' for their actions, re-engage with education and want to 'do the best' for their children. I challenge the idea that 'interventions' such as this antenatal educational setting are part of a policy framework that seeks to teach 'middle-class' parenting methods to working-class young women. Rather, the professionals working in the setting transform policy discourses to support and defend the young women from stigma. I contrast the young women's positive experiences in the setting with their negative school experiences, and show how the process of educational disaffection often happens prior to pregnancy, and how pregnancy precipitates increased motivation. The young women use pregnancy as a way to transition from a 'bad girl' to a 'good mother' identity, and as an opportunity to re-evaluate family relationships and friendships. I conclude by making policy recommendations with regard to the education of pregnant young women and mothers.

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