Chapter I Introduction

Background of the study In evaluating the effect of change over time in the social construction of adolescent motherhood, we must take into consideration how the concept of adolescence has changed over the past 60 years. Today we generally define adolescence as the time between 11 and 20 years (Wong & Perry, 1998, p.1096). Inherent in our perception of adolescence as a unique developmental stage are assumptions that include socially acceptable standards of behavior for this age group. Generally, these assumptions relate to a series of behaviors, that progress from mild rebellion, engaging in risk taking behaviors, obtaining an education, choosing a career, and finally forming a family consisting of mother, father and children. A popular nursing text states that between the years 11 to 20, there is a transition in terms of sexual development from limited intimacy...[to]...a decisive turn toward heterosexuality...[to]...dating as a male-female pair (Wong & Perry, 1998, p.1096). This means that parenting must wait until social maturity, often associated with financial security, is achieved. Benner (1994) explains that theories of adolescent development over the past forty years have thus presented the tasks of adolescence and the tasks; of motherhood to be in opposition because of the teen s failure to first achieve autonomy and become a differentiated self (p. 143). Less than one hundred years ago however, the imperative was for children to relieve parents of their physical and economic dependence at as early an age as possible. Status and independence within the adult community was gained primarily through marriage and childbearing at an early age. It was not unusual for marriage to occur as early as 15 years, which was the average age of puberty (Montessoro & Blixen, 1996; Apple & Golden, 1997). In contrast, this modern day latency period of adolescence is constructed by economic and social influences such as the desire to achieve greater financial and social status through extended 5 education and job training, and through opportunities for women outside traditional domestic roles. Thus, for the dominant culture there are increasing expectations that parents will promote both son s and daughter s future well-being by supporting them economically until they are finished post-secondary training. This relationship assumes that the child will remain single and childless until a career is established or well underway. Parents likewise obtain social status by providing this opportunity for their children. While children continue to pass through the period between 11 and 20 years, society s beliefs about appropriate behavior for youth in regard to sexuality and the appropriate age for parenting, have changed. Young women at both ends of the historical period, that is those who were adolescents in the 1940 s and chose not to fulfill society s expectation to become mothers were sanctioned, while young women today who

we must take into consideration how the concept of adolescence has changed over the past 60 years. This research study uses a feminist oral history methodology to examine the social construction of adolescent motherhood. and include the social and historical events that have influenced our particular lives. and frame the ways in which we plan and evaluate the care we provide. Today we generally define adolescence as the time between 11 and 20 years (Wong & Perry. these assumptions relate to a series of behaviors. that progress from mild rebellion. childbirth is both a significant social event. choosing a career. These socially and historically constructed attitudes influence nursing policies and programs. that which women. In evaluating the effect of change over time in the social construction of adolescent motherhood. interactiveness.1096). Inherent in our perception of adolescence as a unique developmental stage are assumptions that include socially acceptable standards of behavior for this age group.choose to do so at an early age. social and historical themes that emerge from interviews with women between 18 and 75 years of age.34).1991. engaging in risk taking behaviors. Generally. father and children. obtaining an education. and a uniquely female experience. have also raised concerns about their well-being . p. In writing about the tradition of feminist oral history. A popular nursing text states . and allows for an investigation of the interplay between the two. Another important piece is the way that the largely female profession of nursing is influenced by society s changing beliefs about the role of women in both the public and private sphere. in the present and for the future. In this research study. and seemingly contradictory nature of women s experiences. 1998. They are grounded in our personal history. Thus for a number of reasons it is difficult to critically examine the research on this subject without an understanding of the historical and social factors that have shaped our beliefs and assumptions about adolescence and sexuality. have held as significant in the past and how they have perceived and interpreted this through the ideological blueprints that they have internalized (Chanfrault-Duchet. Chanfrault-Duchet (1991) explains that this method allows us to examine and enrich our understanding of the complexity. p. The goal of conducting and analyzing these interviews is to expand the reader s insight in reference to the complex pathways by which nurses come to understand personally and socially significant events. 90). Statement of the Problem Our assumptions as nurses about the experience of adolescent motherhood are complex in their origins. as social actors involved in history. Feminist oral history methodology is chosen in an attempt to understand and analyze. and finally forming a family consisting of mother. It is informed by the personal. According to Montessoro and Blixen (1996) the phenomenon of adolescent pregnancy needs to be viewed within the context of an increasing female independence challenging traditional social norms and expectations about appropriate female behavior (p. Oral history links the past to the present.

[to]. which was the average age of puberty (Montessoro & Blixen.. Significance of the study . Apple & Golden. society s beliefs about appropriate behavior for youth in regard to sexuality and the appropriate age for parenting. This relationship assumes that the child will remain single and childless until a career is established or well underway. 1998.a decisive turn toward heterosexuality. often associated with financial security. that is those who were adolescents in the 1940 s and chose not to fulfill society s expectation to become mothers were sanctioned. Benner (1994) explains that theories of adolescent development over the past forty years have thus presented the tasks of adolescence and the tasks. the imperative was for children to relieve parents of their physical and economic dependence at as early an age as possible. 143). Less than one hundred years ago however. It was not unusual for marriage to occur as early as 15 years. for the dominant culture there are increasing expectations that parents will promote both son s and daughter s future well-being by supporting them economically until they are finished post-secondary training.1096).that between the years 11 to 20. While children continue to pass through the period between 11 and 20 years. This means that parenting must wait until social maturity.. In contrast.dating as a male-female pair (Wong & Perry. Thus. Young women at both ends of the historical period. p. of motherhood to be in opposition because of the teen s failure to first achieve autonomy and become a differentiated self (p. Status and independence within the adult community was gained primarily through marriage and childbearing at an early age. this modern day latency period of adolescence is constructed by economic and social influences such as the desire to achieve greater financial and social status through extended 5 education and job training.. Thus for a number of reasons it is difficult to critically examine the research on this subject without an understanding of the historical and social factors that have shaped our beliefs and assumptions about adolescence and sexuality.. and through opportunities for women outside traditional domestic roles. 1997). have also raised concerns about their well-being .[to]... have changed. 1996.. there is a transition in terms of sexual development from limited intimacy. According to Montessoro and Blixen (1996) the phenomenon of adolescent pregnancy needs to be viewed within the context of an increasing female independence challenging traditional social norms and expectations about appropriate female behavior (p. is achieved. while young women today who choose to do so at an early age.. Parents likewise obtain social status by providing this opportunity for their children.34).

68). lack of a control group. In explaining this limitation. and reliability of research findings. Thus for example. but rather for the fact that they have had the experience of adolescent motherhood. Oral history research as a type of qualitative research experiences similar limitations when viewed from the traditional positive perspective. Therefore it will not be possible to generalize the findings of this study to any other similar population. The small sample size often associated with qualitative research methods and the lack of scientific rigor in the research design (including the absence of random sampling. generalizability. There will not be an attempt to draw parallels between stories or compare the 20 sociocultural or economic backgrounds of participants. instead relevant historical events will be woven into the interpretation. Predicting adolescent motherhood and solving this social problem is not the aim of this qualitative research study. 141). adolescent motherhood) with the aim of resolving the problem will not be accomplished. The reader will also find that the historic events recorded during the interview will not be subjected to verification.Scope and Limit of the study The limitations of this research study relate to the nature of qualitative research methods in general. a goal of establishing a relationship between predisposing factors that contribute to a specified condition (i. Participants will not be chosen for their representativeness of any particular economic. This research study will thus not meet the expectation that any particular cause of adolescent motherhood will be sought. SmithBattle (1994) addresses this limitation by explaining that narratives play [a role] in showing lives to be situated and organized by practical. The tape recorded stories of a small number of women about the experience of adolescent motherhood does not lend itself to the accumulation of discrete units of data or the prediction of outcomes. rationality (p. but rather to show how events are changed by memory: these changes reveal the narrators effort to make sense of the past and to give a form to their lives (p. Portelli (1999) explains that the value of the oral history narrative is not to explicate historical events. and the disregard for objectivity in the collecting and interpretation of research data) often leads to skepticism about the quality. and feminist oral history interviewing in particular. nor any solution determined. rather than disengaged. cultural or ethnic group. The focus of the interviews will be on the contextuality of the stories as narrated by the individual.e. The implication is that results obtained by purely qualitative methods do not allow the reader or the scientific community to establish a relationship between cause and effect or to predict outcomes based on the existence of distinct variables within similar populations. Reference of Terms .

these studies have focused on the determinants of health (economic well being. 1982). and better educated women. A criticism of this research has been that it fails to consider the importance of social relationships. The ability of researchers to generalize findings and predict outcomes are qualities that are valued in both quantitative and qualitative traditions. On the topic of adolescent motherhood.1987). Morrison. education. and a resulting increase in the number and variety of studies devoted to this area of social concern (Montessoro & Blixen. 2000 ). to the impact of teenage parenting on the stability of the nuclear family. Tran. These assumptions form the building blocks of the present social construction of adolescent motherhood. Research statistics contribute scientific validity to the perception that adolescents having children are more likely to become burdens to society.1998. and in the methods used to address those questions. the complexity of modern adolescent development. Quantitative studies in this review primarily examined the relationship between the determinants of health and the risk for adolescent motherhood. married. access to health care. Yet it is difficult to make generalizations and conclusions about an experience that is so individually and socially complex. Larson. A review of the literature for this research study examines quantitative and qualitative research studies. Molina.1994. much of the quantitative research reviewed infers . Brooks-Gunn & Morgan. the cost to the public health care system of low birth weight infants. Brown. A review of research on the topic of adolescent pregnancy and motherhood was conducted for the years 1980-2000. In the last twenty years it has shifted focus from the alleged moral inappropriateness of children having children . This perception of dependency however has not always been pervasive. Unger. Nord. 1992. Gillmore. The social and political concerns of the past twenty years are reflected in the choice of research questions. and that their children are more likely to be less productive members of 6 society than children of older. Gilligan.1998.Chapter II Review of related Literature Research on the topic of adolescent motherhood continues to be funded. Discussion and dissemination of results most often follows with suggestions for changes in government and social policy directed at equipping young women with the information needed to avoid pregnancy (Farber.1998. This period represents a time of significant increase in government funding for research. 1991. Carey. Spencer. Furstenberg. and the ways in which boys and girls are socialized differently (Ford-Gilboe & 7 Campbell. Arenson. The emphasis here is on the interpretation of the modern day usage of the word adolescent which implies economic and emotional dependency. Camarena & Minor. & Teran. 1996). 1999. substance use. Ratliff & Lyle. 1996. & Gilchrist 1998. as well as a number of secondary sources that explore the social and historical construction of the roles of women in society over the previous century. and the perception of increased maternal/infant morbidity (Alpers. Moore. & Myers. housing) and their value in predicting early pregnancy. For example. Renker.

feminist oral history therefore can be used as a research method to examine the meaning of experience as viewed through the distance between. LeMay. Findings describe the importance of family members and other significant adults in the decision process [to become a mother] (p. these findings create a more comprehensive portrait of the adolescent mother (Alpers. 1998. using in-depth interviews to develop a hypothesis about resiliency and strength in adolescent mothers (p.. 1998. 1995. Farber. in-depth interviews. SmithBattle & Leonard.1999. 1980. A number of important qualitative studies used the in-depth interview as a primary 8 method of inquiry. According to the researchers. 1984). Gilligan. 1991. and include the ways that significant relationships such as family. Farber (1991) states that current research does provide a reasonable assessment of relative risk of early motherhood in the general population.. Williams & Vines. Using a small group of participants. Carey. 1998. Anderson. p. or conformity to. Key findings however are most often directed toward identifying the presence of risk factors for pregnancy and suggesting preventative strategies. Likewise. The emphasis is on contextuality. In examining the experience of adolescent motherhood.80). Consistent with the aims of qualitative research methods expressed here. According to Sandelowski (1995). group interviews). & Lyle. and community impact the choices individuals make (Ford-Gilboe & Campbell.349). 1996. Their personal stories of creative adaptation and strength will enhance the understanding of the process of resiliency in adolescent motherhood (p. Mercer.697). Smith. Arenson. and referring to national data banks or previous research findings containing sociodemographic information about similar populations. rather than on cause and effect relationships and generalizability. Ratliff. 1994.. 1998. & Koniak-Griffin. feminist oral history. religion. according to Chanfrault-Duchet (1991) emphasizes the importance of relationships. surveys) and qualitative methods (focus groups. the image of woman that is in current use in [her] family circle or social group. 1982.that the act of becoming a mother at a young age is made independently of the context of the young girl s social and cultural environment. and the personal and social complexity of life events. Carey. Ratliff and Lyle (1998) for example. & Alexander. and historical context. SmithBattle. These research studies place the individual within her family. Another body of research combines quantitative methods (tables. qualitative methods allow for a greater depth of understanding of the individual as opposed to the collective experience. Mulhall. in a purposeful sample of 42 adolescent mothers chose to focus on successful teen mothers. 1998.). studies with a mainly qualitative focus considers contextual factors such as culture and ethnicity. The in-depth interview is the primary tool that will be used in this feminist oral history research.however. Farber (1991) conducted 28 in-depth interviews with unmarried adolescent mothers between the ages of 15-20 years from mixed cultural and ethnic backgrounds. 1999). and the hegemonic social model [of women] (Chanfrault-Duchet. 1991. adolescent mothers are the experts on the experience of their own resiliency. Camarena. and examine how the choice to become a mother fits within the individual s life-world (Arenson.350). In reviewing the literature. 1996. In contrast. questionnaires. Porter. very little research on .1999. 1990). Mulhall. 1994. suggesting that it is an independent and poor life-style choice given today s middle class emphasis on education and economic wellbeing (FordGilboe & Campbell. LeMay & Alexander. Lesser. In a sense.. cultural.

37).15). p. that contrary to expectations.pregnancy resolution realistically portrays the complex nature of the many factors that influence a pregnant teen s ultimate decision to be a mother (p. all delivered healthy newborns. and that their children have generally poor outcomes including poor health. and how roles are created. In the most recent research study reviewed. In challenging previous findings Williams and Vines (1999) conclude from in-depth interviews conducted with seven first-time mothers who had histories of childhood abuse. In their interviews.. SmithBattle reviews the social history of adolescent motherhood beginning with the 1960 s and traces the evolution of research on the 9 topic of adolescent sexuality and social influences. 15). and unemployment. state in their findings that the conventional wisdom that teenage mothering risks the future disregards the fact that the young mother s experience and understanding of her past as well as her anticipation of the future are intimately tied to the social world she inhabits (SmithBattle.23). poverty. through the interaction of the self and the unique social and historical context in which we live our lives. suddenly a mother.. According to SmithBattle (1995) this perspective privileges the scientific practices of unitizing and generalizing for explaining young mothers lives and has held enormou sway among policy makers and researchers (p. They suggest that not all adolescent mothers are at risk for maladaptive parenting (p. This is not a process in which the self is at one point not a mother. 699). Finally. impose normative ideals that differ substantially from the ways in which young mothers live and understand their lives (p. and then by an act of biology. 1995. SmithBattle (1995) and SmithBattle and Leonard s (1998) research which most closely resembles feminist oral history. Thus it is important to understand how decisions are made by women.22). She brings attention to the fact that much of the research focused on women from impoverished confirms the perception that all young mothers are failures. and that for some becoming a mother may promote personal growth and maturity (p. SmithBattle and Leonard (1998) extended previous research work with a group of adolescent mothers and looked at changes over time in the meaning of the experience. 37). they emphasize the change that occurs to a woman in which an image of the self as a mother is formed. Theoretical Framework . This understanding can be further enriched by reviewing a number of secondary sources related to the social history of women s lives. but rather through a gradual process mediated by socially embedded action (p.36). They did this using in-depth interviews to look at life history accounts of the intervening 4 years (p. They suggest that empirical-rational studies.

1992. Feminist oral history is interdisciplinary in nature. and social and historical context. and the rise of the feminist movement have contributed to a re-examination of the social significance of women s role in shaping history. psychology and sociology. Reinarz. The narrator becomes a performer of and in his or her life-story (Yow. 1994). 1992). The interviewer is an active participant in creating meaning in the research process. 1997. ambiguity and possible inconsistencies. . effects of time on past and present meaning. 1994).Chapter III Methodology Research Design Feminist oral history is a methodological approach that has produced a substantive body of knowledge within the qualitative research tradition (Anderson & Jack. The narrator has the freedom to express ideas and thoughts in a way that may not otherwise have been preserved in a written form. Unlike written records. there is no script to follow. the personal experience of the narrator is at the center of the story. and in determining rules of social order. Rather than focusing on grand historical events and asking the narrator to comment on how she has been affected by these events. journalling and reflecting are all part of the research design. and transcribing it to paper. The interview transcript is then analyzed for meaning with attention to factors such as language structure. the nuances of language and other verbal expressions can be analyzed. Listening. it is the story of the narrator that is the focus of the interview. Much of the experience of the day to day lives of ordinary people has not been recorded in historical documents. In the oral history tradition. Thompson & Barrett. In preserving the spoken word on tape. In feminist oral history. 1997. Rafael. 1994). the text transcribed from a verbal exchange between the narrator and the interviewer creates the historical text. Thompson & Barrett. and about subjects that have not traditionally been topics of historical investigation (Reinnarz. the interviewer and the narrator participate in an interactive process either in a single conversation. Women s lives in particular are almost invisible in historical records. reading. Social and historical events form the backdrop to the experience. These non-traditional topics include the lived experience of women s everyday lives. Yow. Gluck & Patai. Increasing numbers of women in academia.1997. writing. it allows the narrator to reflect on the past within the context of the present. chronological structuring of the narrative. 13 or in a series of conversations (Anderson & Jack 1991. 1991. In particular. It is the narrator s experience that is sought in all it s complexity. In the case of adolescent motherhood. drawing on methodologies from history. 1991. Yow.

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