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‘Why do I always get pregnant on the pill?’; reconceiving teenaged mothers’ repeat pregnancies

Bekaert, S. (2017). ‘Why do I always get pregnant on the pill?’; reconceiving teenaged mothers’ repeat pregnancies. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Policy and research discourses tend to construct teenaged pregnancy and parenthood as negative and to be avoided. Current socio-political expectations in the UK for the teenaged years encompass commitment to education as a route to social mobility, and avoidance of pregnancy and parenthood that is assumed to disrupt this trajectory. If parenthood occurs in the teenaged years, it is problematized within policy discourses which associate young parenting with social exclusion. Teenaged women who become pregnant and abort are expected to return to education and are subject to targeted intervention to avoid repeat pregnancy.

In a nurse outreach service in an inner London borough a small number of young women became mothers after an abortion whilst in the teenaged years. Commissioners saw this as a failure of an outreach programme and constructed the young women as a ‘hard to reach’ group. Troubled by such labelling, this exploratory qualitative study set out to explore the influence on teenaged women’s pregnancy decision-making specifically for those who had an abortion followed by birth. In-depth interviews were carried out with eight teenaged women in 2014.

This study draws methodologically on feminist reflexivity and concepts of governmentality to attend to ways in which women’s sexuality is regulated through policy, clinical, and research practice. Whereas much research over-psychologises women’s reproductive decisions this thesis explicitly grounds the women’s narratives of these decisions in the context of their lives; often dominated by violence, poverty and uncertainty.

Analysis indicates a tension between policy assumptions of individualised decision-making and the contextualised decisions of the young women. I observe that the further the distance between the expected trajectory for teenaged years and emerging personal desire for parenthood the greater the young women’s narratives were characterised by discourses of ‘responsibilisation’; convincing me of their ‘good citizenship’. I debate this as either a form of resistance, distancing themselves from the negative single teen mother stereotype or a lack of confidence to challenge such normalised expectations.

Furthermore, deficit models of teenaged parenting fail to acknowledge the positives that young women report. This thesis challenges such deficit models and highlights the favourable elements of parenting described, and suggest that the young women struggle to articulate a desire for parenting within dominant discourses of prevention.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences
[thumbnail of final thesis Sarah Bekaert pdf.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
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