This research is a detailed study of the phenomenon of teenage parenthood at the beginning of the twenty first century. The study draws on a contextualised analysis of the lives and experiences of eight teenage mother and father couples as they make the transition to parenthood. The aim of the research is to analyse the experience of teenage motherhood and fatherhood in Britain today and to understand young, contemporary, mothering and fathering ‘practices’. The study is based on qualitative research methods and has adopted a longitudinal approach to the collection of data. The research strategy used is the case study. Data collection proceeded over a period of nineteen months. Sixteen young mothers and fathers were interviewed up to four times over this period.
This study found that young people attach great value to family life and family relationships and that they have high ideals and aspirations for the future of their own ‘new’ families. It is this belief in the idea of family that guides a young pregnant woman’s decision about continuing with her unplanned pregnancy, and the young man’s commitment to support his pregnant partner and unborn baby.
This thesis also found that for the young mothers in this study, motherhood represents a positive choice. Pregnancy occurs at a time of vulnerability, yet these young women chose to continue their unplanned pregnancies and become mothers. The uniqueness of young motherhood is the multiple transitions that young women have to undergo simultaneously. Nonetheless, with the right support young mothers do mother successfully.
The study reveals that the young fathers had a strong desire to support their partners and be ‘good’ fathers to their children. Fatherhood is meaningful and important as an ideal, and represents a marker of responsibility and a transition to adulthood. Young fatherhood is challenging, yet it is also a generative experience. It is the young men’s strengths and resourcefulness, generated in response to their difficult situations that stand out in the findings in this study.
The study found that young people are doing and living family in a variety of ways. Some are living with their families and caring for their children in this context. Others were embarking on independent lives. Yet the striking feature of the ways in which they ‘lived’ family was the extent of the family support networks which they sought out, depended upon, and valued highly.