Acting their age? An intersectional approach on young motherhood from young mothers' perspectives
SourceAffilia, 35, 4, (2020), pp. 466-484
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ RSCR CAOS
FSW_Institute for Gender Studies (IGS)
SubjectAnthropology and Development Studies; Radboud Gender & Diversity Studies
This article challenges the assumptions in social policy and practice of how the combination of youth and motherhood is problematic and morally wrong. Using an intersectional approach, this study uncovers how young mothers' social categories of youth and motherhood collide, concur with, or reinforce each other. The research question is the following: What are young mothers' perceptions and practices of youth when combining youth with motherhood? The research methods include 18 months of participant observation and 41 semi-structured interviews with young mothers in the Netherlands. Analysis shows that young motherhood should not be conflated with problematic motherhood. Young mothers position themselves as "new" parents, single mothers, and working parents. Their motherhood practices illustrate adherence to an ideology of child-centered, omnipresent, and responsible motherhood. They might not be good girls, but they show they are good mothers. Young mothers navigate intersecting dimensions of youth, age, motherhood, and gender through (1) discontinuing youth practices, (2) alternating between motherhood and youthfulness, (3) transforming youth practices into young motherhood practices, and (4) reinforcing youth through young motherhood. Professionals can use the strengths of these practices more to the advantage of the youth to provide support that is tailored to clients' needs.
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