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Researcher debunks the myth of the teenage mother

Dr Alldred co-authored with Professor Miriam David (Institute of Education) the chapter, “What's Important at The End of The Day?' Young Mothers' Values and Policy Presumptions“.

The chapter examines the construction of education in the Government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy and contrasts it with the perspectives of young mothers themselves, with a particular focus on their education.

The chapter forms part of the new book, “Teenage Parenthood: What's the Problem?“, which arrives just as New Labour's 10-year Teenage Pregnancy Strategy draws to an indefinite conclusion and spending on social welfare faces an uncertain future.

The text is already attracting acclaim and controversy in equal measure. Chapters like the one written by Alldred and David are based on qualitative research, which is used to explore and understand people's beliefs and behaviours - in this case, the perspectives of marginalised and economically disadvantaged teenage mothers.

Qualitative research has traditionally been overlooked by policymakers in favour of quantitative research, which support findings using numerical data. This new book shows that rich qualitative datasets exist around the UK that show there are diverse, working class communities who do not share the values assumed in the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.

Whereas the Government seeks to introduce young mothers into education, training or employment within six weeks of having a baby, the young mothers Alldred interviewed saw returning to education as something they would do in the future, perhaps when their child started school.

They valued 'being there' for their babies, and viewed good mothering as full-time involvement with their offspring rather than juggling work with childcare.

Another problem is that few are likely to find work well paid enough to leave any spare money after covering childcare fees.

It is the disparity between the values lauded in government policy and the values of the everyday person that forms the central concern for Alldred: when government rhetoric supports a set of values that aren't broadly shared by the population, marginalised groups can find themselves unfairly condemned and penalised by welfare policy.

Teenage Parenthood Is published by Tufnell Press and edited by Clare Alexander, Simon Duncan and Rosalind Edwards.

Pam Alldred has also previously published “Get Real About Sex: The Politics and Practice of Sex Education“ (with M. David) with McGraw Hill/Open University Press in 2007.