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Who is the mother? Exploring the meaning of grandparental support in young Swedish mothers’ narratives
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2017 (English)In: Feminism and Psychology, ISSN 0959-3535, E-ISSN 1461-7161, Vol. 27, no 3, p. 318-335Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Within the western understanding of a nuclear family and the idea of good motherhood, the need for grandparental support is commonly viewed as an expression of deficient motherhood. Young mothers are often seen as incapable of maternal practices and as being in need of support from their extended family. An alternative view is that too much support might result in the grandmothers taking on the role of mother. This paper explores research around the ambivalent meanings of grandparental support in young Swedish mothers’ narratives. In this research, we identified three repertoires: inhibiting, being-there-no-matter-what and responsibility. Mothers who were following their expected life course achieved a subject position as a ‘‘real mother’’ within a functioning nuclear family. Mothers deviating from their expected life course achieved a subject position as either a ‘‘mother in becoming’’ with a functional and supportive extended family or as a ‘‘real mother’’ with a dysfunctional and non-supportive extended family. In the case of young mothers who are seen as insufficient, motherhood might become negotiable and fluid between the biological mother and the young mother’s own mother.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 27, no 3, p. 318-335
Keywords [en]
young motherhood, identity, grandparental support, life course, motherhood
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-131725DOI: 10.1177/0959353516685343ISI: 000407558000004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-131725DiVA, id: diva2:1075516
Available from: 2017-02-20 Created: 2017-02-20 Last updated: 2019-10-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Young mothers’ identity work: life course, risk, and good motherhood
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Young mothers’ identity work: life course, risk, and good motherhood
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: Most studies about young motherhood have focused on identifying how young mothers can be supported or on how notions of young motherhood are produced. However, there is still limited knowledge about the maternal identity work of young mothers. The overarching aim of this thesis was to explore the maternal identity work of young mothers and, as part of this, to study young motherhood in relation to different forms of parenting support.

Method: For the first three papers, 17 young Swedish mothers aged 13–25 were interviewed 1 or 2 times each (in total 31 interviews). The interview conversations were analysed from the perspective of discursive psychology. For the fourth paper, three Facebook groups that offered parenting support online to young mothers were studied. Data from the three Facebook groups were analysed through network analysis, online ethnography, and telephone interviews with two administrators. The ethnographical data and interviews in this particular substudy were analysed through thematic content analysis.

Theoretical perspectives: The identity work of the interviewed young mothers was analysed in relation to theories and debates about parenting and the life course, the risk society, and the notion of “good motherhood”.

Findings: The findings of the thesis suggest (Papers 1, 2, and 3) that whether the interviewed young mothers followed or deviated from their expected life course seemed to have an impact on the degree to which their mothering was seen as “risky”. Furthermore (Paper 2), the mothers appeared to be discursively divided into three different levels of riskiness in their social contexts: less risky mothers, high risk mothers, and mothers seen as too risky for mothering. The mothers’ level of presumed riskiness seemed in turn to have meanings for which dominant and/or alternative motherhood discourses they could access and draw upon in a trustworthy way (or which motherhood discourses they lacked access to) when presenting their maternal positions and making sense of their maternal identity in relation to the world around them. Two emerging motherhood discourses were identified: youthful motherhood (Paper 1) and common-sense motherhood (Paper 2). Support from the young mothers’ own mothers (Paper 3) had contradictory meanings for their identities and functioned as a form of guidance into motherhood while at the same time limiting the young mothers’ possibilities to take on the position as the “main-mother” of her child. Young mothers seemed to prefer peer-parenting support online (Paper 4) in closed Facebook groups above participating in governmental expert-guided face-to-face support groups.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2019. p. 58
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508
National Category
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-164300 (URN)978-91-7855-118-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-11-15, Norra beteendevetarhuset, 1031, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-10-25 Created: 2019-10-21 Last updated: 2019-10-25Bibliographically approved

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Sjöberg, MagdalenaBertilsdotter-Rosqvist, Hanna

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