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Too risky for mothering?: Exploring the maternal identity work of young Swedish mothers in relation to discourses of risk and good motherhood
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the Swedish risk-conscious family policy, which is dominated by parenting determinism, all mothers are produced as being “at risk”. This not only stresses women’s maternal identity work in general, it also causes marginalized forms of motherhood, such as young motherhood, to be understood as high-risk mothering. Through interviews, this paper explores how young Swedish mothers aged 13–25 understand and position their maternal identity within ideas of motherhood, and it illustrates how discursive meanings of risk and life course condition young women’s maternal identity work. Whether the mother is seen as deviating from or following her expected life course defines her riskiness as less risky motherhood, high-risk motherhood, or too risky for mothering, which in turn affects her access – or lack thereof – to the dominant maternal repertoires in her maternal identity work. Mothers seen as less risky were positioned within a relaxed, good-enough motherhood, invoking a new repertoire of common-sense mothering to counteract the risk-managing repertoire. Mothers seen as high risk struggled to position themselves as good-enough mothers and invoked the repertoires of intensive and risk-managing motherhood to strengthen this position. The youngest mothers (aged 13–16) who lacked access to the dominant maternal repertoires positioned themselves as a rather free and rebellious motherhood by invoking the counter-repertoire of commonsense motherhood.

Keywords [en]
risk, young motherhood, maternal identity, life course, intensive motherhood, riskmanaging motherhood
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
gender studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-164290OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-164290DiVA, id: diva2:1362665
Available from: 2019-10-21 Created: 2019-10-21 Last updated: 2019-10-23
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, Magdalena

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Citation style
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