Becoming a ‘good mum’ : the experiences of young mothers transitioning to motherhood.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Worldwide, teen pregnancy and mothering are typically viewed as a social ‘problem’. Similarly within contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand, teen or young mothering is shrouded within varying social, political and historical discourses, the dominant of which tend to construct young mothers in a negative light. These discourses have the potential to adversely shape the emerging identities of young mothers. In contrast, one social response in Aotearoa New Zealand, aims to support a more positive outcome for young mothers. This is the Teen Parent Unit. Considered a ‘school within a school’, the Teen Parent Unit provides education for teenage students who are either pregnant or are parenting. One of these Teen Parent Units is the context in which this research project, on the lived experience of young mothers, is conducted.
Using a qualitative methodology, this thesis investigates the journeys of six young women enrolled in a Teen Parent Unit as they make the transition to motherhood. Interviews, observations and dialogue groups enabled the exploration of the perceptions and meanings attached to becoming a mother for these young women. Their stories are interpreted using a social constructionist theoretical framework to demonstrate how becoming a mother is a journey of transformation for such young women, whereby their identities are continuously in the making and are often constructed and reconstructed around events and happenings that are important within their lives. Of particular note is the manner in which these young women resist others’ attempts to construct them negatively and, instead, project themselves positively as what they term a ‘good mum’. A conceptual model is used to describe a process of change or transformation towards becoming a young mother and a pūrerehua (butterfly) metaphor is used to help describe the identity development of a group of young mothers.