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Young mothers’ identity work: life course, risk, and good motherhood
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: Most studies about young motherhood have focused on identifying how young mothers can be supported or on how notions of young motherhood are produced. However, there is still limited knowledge about the maternal identity work of young mothers. The overarching aim of this thesis was to explore the maternal identity work of young mothers and, as part of this, to study young motherhood in relation to different forms of parenting support.

Method: For the first three papers, 17 young Swedish mothers aged 13–25 were interviewed 1 or 2 times each (in total 31 interviews). The interview conversations were analysed from the perspective of discursive psychology. For the fourth paper, three Facebook groups that offered parenting support online to young mothers were studied. Data from the three Facebook groups were analysed through network analysis, online ethnography, and telephone interviews with two administrators. The ethnographical data and interviews in this particular substudy were analysed through thematic content analysis.

Theoretical perspectives: The identity work of the interviewed young mothers was analysed in relation to theories and debates about parenting and the life course, the risk society, and the notion of “good motherhood”.

Findings: The findings of the thesis suggest (Papers 1, 2, and 3) that whether the interviewed young mothers followed or deviated from their expected life course seemed to have an impact on the degree to which their mothering was seen as “risky”. Furthermore (Paper 2), the mothers appeared to be discursively divided into three different levels of riskiness in their social contexts: less risky mothers, high risk mothers, and mothers seen as too risky for mothering. The mothers’ level of presumed riskiness seemed in turn to have meanings for which dominant and/or alternative motherhood discourses they could access and draw upon in a trustworthy way (or which motherhood discourses they lacked access to) when presenting their maternal positions and making sense of their maternal identity in relation to the world around them. Two emerging motherhood discourses were identified: youthful motherhood (Paper 1) and common-sense motherhood (Paper 2). Support from the young mothers’ own mothers (Paper 3) had contradictory meanings for their identities and functioned as a form of guidance into motherhood while at the same time limiting the young mothers’ possibilities to take on the position as the “main-mother” of her child. Young mothers seemed to prefer peer-parenting support online (Paper 4) in closed Facebook groups above participating in governmental expert-guided face-to-face support groups.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2019. , p. 58
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508
National Category
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-164300ISBN: 978-91-7855-118-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-164300DiVA, id: diva2:1362713
Public defence
2019-11-15, Norra beteendevetarhuset, 1031, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-10-25 Created: 2019-10-21 Last updated: 2019-10-25Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Youthful mothering?: Exploring the meaning of adulthood and youthfulness within the maternal identity work of young Swedish mothers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Youthful mothering?: Exploring the meaning of adulthood and youthfulness within the maternal identity work of young Swedish mothers
2018 (English)In: Feminism and Psychology, ISSN 0959-3535, E-ISSN 1461-7161, Vol. 28, no 3, p. 355-372Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we explore meanings of adulthood and youthfulness in relation to notions of life course, good motherhood, and girlhood among young mothers in Sweden. Our analysis was informed by a discursive psychological approach and was based on interview conversations with 17 mothers who were 13–25 years old at the birth of their first child. In our analysis, we identified two repertoires – the ‘social age’ repertoire and the ‘chronological age’ repertoire. The interviewees invoked the two repertoires to position themselves and others as either responsible adult mothers or as responsible youthful mothers. Meanings of adulthood are central within the idea of motherhood, and by deviating from their expected life course young mothers are often understood as non-adults who are incapable of fulfilling the developmental task of motherhood. Our work suggests that the maternal identity work of young mothers takes place within discourses of both adulthood and youthfulness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Sage Publications, 2018
Keywords
adulthood, youth, developmental task, life course, motherhood, young motherhood
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-150553 (URN)10.1177/0959353518784614 (DOI)000441281700004 ()
Available from: 2018-08-12 Created: 2018-08-12 Last updated: 2019-10-21Bibliographically approved
2. Too risky for mothering?: Exploring the maternal identity work of young Swedish mothers in relation to discourses of risk and good motherhood
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Too risky for mothering?: Exploring the maternal identity work of young Swedish mothers in relation to discourses of risk and good motherhood
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the Swedish risk-conscious family policy, which is dominated by parenting determinism, all mothers are produced as being “at risk”. This not only stresses women’s maternal identity work in general, it also causes marginalized forms of motherhood, such as young motherhood, to be understood as high-risk mothering. Through interviews, this paper explores how young Swedish mothers aged 13–25 understand and position their maternal identity within ideas of motherhood, and it illustrates how discursive meanings of risk and life course condition young women’s maternal identity work. Whether the mother is seen as deviating from or following her expected life course defines her riskiness as less risky motherhood, high-risk motherhood, or too risky for mothering, which in turn affects her access – or lack thereof – to the dominant maternal repertoires in her maternal identity work. Mothers seen as less risky were positioned within a relaxed, good-enough motherhood, invoking a new repertoire of common-sense mothering to counteract the risk-managing repertoire. Mothers seen as high risk struggled to position themselves as good-enough mothers and invoked the repertoires of intensive and risk-managing motherhood to strengthen this position. The youngest mothers (aged 13–16) who lacked access to the dominant maternal repertoires positioned themselves as a rather free and rebellious motherhood by invoking the counter-repertoire of commonsense motherhood.

Keywords
risk, young motherhood, maternal identity, life course, intensive motherhood, riskmanaging motherhood
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
gender studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-164290 (URN)
Available from: 2019-10-21 Created: 2019-10-21 Last updated: 2019-10-23
3. Who is the mother? Exploring the meaning of grandparental support in young Swedish mothers’ narratives
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Who is the mother? Exploring the meaning of grandparental support in young Swedish mothers’ narratives
2017 (English)In: Feminism and Psychology, ISSN 0959-3535, E-ISSN 1461-7161, Vol. 27, no 3, p. 318-335Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Within the western understanding of a nuclear family and the idea of good motherhood, the need for grandparental support is commonly viewed as an expression of deficient motherhood. Young mothers are often seen as incapable of maternal practices and as being in need of support from their extended family. An alternative view is that too much support might result in the grandmothers taking on the role of mother. This paper explores research around the ambivalent meanings of grandparental support in young Swedish mothers’ narratives. In this research, we identified three repertoires: inhibiting, being-there-no-matter-what and responsibility. Mothers who were following their expected life course achieved a subject position as a ‘‘real mother’’ within a functioning nuclear family. Mothers deviating from their expected life course achieved a subject position as either a ‘‘mother in becoming’’ with a functional and supportive extended family or as a ‘‘real mother’’ with a dysfunctional and non-supportive extended family. In the case of young mothers who are seen as insufficient, motherhood might become negotiable and fluid between the biological mother and the young mother’s own mother.

Keywords
young motherhood, identity, grandparental support, life course, motherhood
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-131725 (URN)10.1177/0959353516685343 (DOI)000407558000004 ()
Available from: 2017-02-20 Created: 2017-02-20 Last updated: 2019-10-21Bibliographically approved
4. Challenging the roles of “skilled” professionals and “risky” young mothers: peer support, expertise, and relational patterns in Facebook groups
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Challenging the roles of “skilled” professionals and “risky” young mothers: peer support, expertise, and relational patterns in Facebook groups
2017 (English)In: Journal of technology in human services, ISSN 1522-8835, E-ISSN 1522-8991, Vol. 35, no 3, p. 247-270Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Today, many countries spend a great deal of money and effort on programs for expert-guided parenting support to be carried out in face-to-face groups. One goal of such support is to target, help, and educate “risky” groups of parents, such as young parents. It is striking, however, that young parents have a conspicuously low degree of participation in this type of parenting support. Drawing on the assumption that many young parents go online to seek, give, and receive peer parenting support, this paper presents a case study of activities within three Facebook groups. Using a combination of social network analysis, online ethnography, and interviews, we analyze how social network relationships and discussions differ depending on whether the analyzed Facebook group in question is administrated by professionals or peers, what the role of professional experts is, and how young parents might use social media to take control of their own support needs. Our results indicate that some of the affordances provided by Facebook might contribute to a challenging of the roles of “skilled” professionals versus “risky” young parents.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Abingdon: Routledge, 2017
Keywords
Online support groups, parenting, social media, young mothers
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
digital humanities; Public health
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-139653 (URN)10.1080/15228835.2017.1367350 (DOI)000416747100006 ()
Available from: 2017-09-20 Created: 2017-09-20 Last updated: 2019-10-23Bibliographically approved

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