'Children having children? Experiences of, and attitudes to, teenage pregnancy in later twentieth century and early twenty-first century England.'
This doctoral thesis is the first history of teenage pregnancy and motherhood in late 20th and early 21st century England. While sociologists have charted changing social policies, little is known about how cultural attitudes and social experiences around teenage pregnancy have shifted over time. Historians have overlooked age as an analytical category, neglecting to acknowledge teenage motherhood as not simply a subcategory of unmarried motherhood. The ‘teen mum’ figure constructed new prejudices and inequalities that intensified long-standing tensions around classed and racialised understandings of age. My project asks how teenage girls experienced their pregnancies and how external attitudes affected them. It reveals how these experiences diverged from those of other mothers to understand teenage pregnancy as a historically contingent experience.
This project involves re-analysis of contemporary sociological interviews with teenage mothers during and after their pregnancies. Conducted in the late 1980s by pioneering social scientists, this thesis situates them within historical context for the first time. This is complemented by the first oral histories with teenage mothers, placing women’s perspectives at the heart of this new history. Archives of advice literature such as the Maternity Alliance and teenage magazine problem pages are employed to understand the changing conditions whereby pregnant teenagers made pre- and post-natal decisions. In addition, popular media sources such as newspapers and television will expose the cultural discourse that impacted these experiences of early motherhood.