Exploring The Lived Experiences Of Unmarried Young Mothers In South-Western Nigeria

Oluseye, Ayomide Oreoluwa (2021). Exploring The Lived Experiences Of Unmarried Young Mothers In South-Western Nigeria. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00012e79


Teenage pregnancy and motherhood are often constructed in contemporary, policy and academic discourses as social problems, resulting in poor health and socio-economic outcomes for mother and child. However, in the last decade, a considerable body of international research has not only begun to challenge these constructions; but to suggest that the constructions themselves may contribute towards negative consequences for the socio-economic and psychological wellbeing of unmarried teenage mothers. In Nigeria, negative perceptions towards unmarried teenage mothers persist and the potential consequences of these remain understudied. Adopting a social constructionist framework, this thesis analyses the social disadvantages associated with the negative social representations of teenage pregnancy and motherhood in South-Western Nigeria.

Using semi-structured interviews and photo-elicitation methods, this thesis explored the experiences of 24 young women who became first-time unmarried mothers between the ages of 15-19 years. Their experiences were also critically triangulated with findings from semi-structured interviews with 10 key community informants.

Findings from the study suggest that gender norms define female sexuality, constrain their agencies, and influence their access to reproductive health services, predisposing them to early pregnancy and motherhood. Many of the study participants experienced single motherhood, educational disruption, and limited employment opportunities which compromised their wellbeing and earning capacities, due to the systematic stigmatization and discrimination within institutions (i.e. family, religious, legal, educational, and health institutions). This thesis also discusses how young mothers managed their negative representations within society, and in some instances, reconstructed positive identities for themselves. The thesis ends by suggesting potential social changes that can improve the life outcomes of pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers and challenge the negative social representation of teenage pregnancy and motherhood in Nigeria.

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