Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 23-46

First online:

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

  • Stefanie MollbornAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado at BoulderInstitute of Behavioral Science and Department of Sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder Email author 
  • , Janet JacobsAffiliated withUniversity of Colorado at Boulder

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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.


Teenage mothers Qualitative research Economic hardship Social norms Life course