An exploratory study of experiences of parenting among a group of school-going adolescent mothers in a South African township
MetadataShow full item record
This study explored adolescent girls' subjective experiences of being young mothers in school, focusing on their personal and interpersonal relationships within their social contexts. Participants included 15 young black mothers aged between 16 and 19 years from three high schools in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Conducted within a feminist social constructionist framework, the study adopted an exploratory qualitative structure. Data were collected through life histories that were analysed within a thematic narrative framework. The narratives revealed that the young mothers found motherhood challenging and overly disruptive of school. Although contexts of childcare emerged as pivotal in how young mothers balanced motherhood and schoolwork, these were also presented as characterised by notions of power and control. Because of the gendered nature of care work, the women who supported the young mothers with childcare dominated the mothering spheres. The schools were also experienced as controlled and regulated by authorities in ways that constrained the young mothers balancing of school and parenting. Equally constraining to a number of adolescent mothers were structural challenges, for example, parenting in spaces that lacked resources. These challenges were compounded by the immense stigma attached to adolescent motherhood. The study recommended that the Department of Education work closely with all the parties concerned in ensuring that pregnant learners benefit from the policy. It is necessary that educators are encouraged to shift attitudes so that communication with adolescent mothers is improved.