The paradox of family support for young mothers: An interpretive phenomenology analysis

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Objective: We sought to illuminant the lived experiences of becoming a mother during adolescence within the context of multigenerational family caregiving. Background: Adolescence is a developmental time frame during which identity formation is most salient and characterized by separation from parents (Erikson, 1968). Teenage childbearing, then, presents a unique scenario during which adolescent mothers and their families may need to renegotiate autonomy and caregiving roles. Method: Qualitative methods, and interpretive phenomenological analysis, were utilized to explore the lived experiences of nine women who became mothers before the age of 19 years. Mothers were recruited from rural, Central Appalachian regions in the United States. Results: We identified the essence of young mothers' lived experiences regarding their receipt of caregiving during the transition to parenthood as an adolescent. Mothers equated instrumental and emotional support from family with their own "lovability" and interpreted support as indicative of their evolving competence as mothers. Conclusions: Young motherhood appeared to be a developmental paradox in that their adolescent identity conflicted with their maternal identity. Implications: Young mothers would benefit from multilevel interventions. Instead, practitioners might consider supporting whole families of young mothers by providing the means to create a healthy, supportive environment for the mother and her offspring.



gatekeeping, intergenerational families, maternal identity, phenomenology, young mothers