, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 23-46
Date: 21 Dec 2011

“We’ll Figure a Way”: Teenage Mothers’ Experiences in Shifting Social and Economic Contexts

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Abstract

The current economic and social context calls for a renewed assessment of the consequences of an early transition to parenthood. In interviews with 55 teenage mothers in Colorado, we find that they are experiencing severe economic and social strains. Financially, although most are receiving substantial help from family members and sometimes their children’s fathers, basic needs often remain unmet. Macroeconomic and family structure trends have resulted in deprived material circumstances, while welfare reform and other changes have reduced the availability of aid. Socially, families’ and communities’ disapproval of early childbearing negatively influences the support young mothers receive, their social interactions, and their experiences with social institutions.

This research was conducted with support from the University of Colorado’s Innovative Grant Program and Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. We thank Devon Thacker, Leith Lombas, Nicole Moore, Aleeza Zabriskie , and members of the Sociology junior faculty reading group for their assistance, as well as the study’s participants for sharing their time and stories with us.