Restructuring life within the context of adolescent motherhood
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This study explored the experience of motherhood for adolescent females who were in school, completing their high school education. The fact that the birth of a baby during adolescence leads to decreased educational, professional, and personal accomplishments is well documented. The participants in this study identified conditions and variables that led to positive outcomes such as increased educational goals and professional goals and a heightened enjoyment of life. Participants were involved in a parenting program that included childcare and parenting and educational support. Therefore all of the positive changes reported are made within the context of the program. There is no assumption made to suggest that changes would occur without this support. Educational and psychological research in the areas of resiliency and protective factors, identity development, and adolescent parenthood, guided this study. Resiliency studies have identified characteristics of children and adolescents, who despite many obstacles, achieve educational and professional successes that many of their “at-risk” peers do not. This study found that a high-risk situation such vii as adolescent motherhood could be analyzed from a resiliency perspective by interviewing young mothers whose educational goals remained stable or increased and whose professional and personal stability increased rather than decreased after the birth of their baby. In this study, 13 adolescent mothers were interviewed to examine the conditions and variables that enabled them to continue their education, despite the fact that they had babies before finishing high school. The participants ranged between the ages of 15 and 21. They were a mixed sample in terms of ethnicity, current living situations, and marital status. All of the interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using the Strauss and Corbin (1990) grounded theory methodology. Open coding was followed by axial coding, which eventually revealed a “central category” entitled “restructuring life within the context of adolescent motherhood.” Causal conditions of (1) pregnancy and (2) a decision to keep the baby, were identified. The young women described various changes that took place after the birth of the baby which influenced their ability to make positive changes such as reestablishing close ties with primary caretakers, increasing intimacy within current relationships, and creating new close relationships with their baby, other adults, and other teen moms.