Affordable Access

Stigma stories: four discourses about teen mothers, welfare, and poverty.

Authors
  • Kelly, D M
Type
Published Article
Journal
Youth & society
Publication Date
Jun 01, 1996
Volume
27
Issue
4
Pages
421–449
Identifiers
PMID: 12156364
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

This study uses a pragmatic model of discourse theory to analyze more than 700 articles about adolescent mothers published in the Canadian printed media in 1980-92. The introduction notes that feminist research has challenged the view that adolescent motherhood is caused by and perpetrates poverty and that a strong social stigma is still associated with teen pregnancy. After describing the methodology and theoretical framework used in this analysis, academic research on adolescent mothers, welfare, and poverty is criticized for using teen motherhood as a conventional scapegoat which allows the structural causes of poverty to be ignored. Discourses about teenage mothers are then described as a "stigma contest." Thus, discussion centers on 1) the bureaucratic notion that the "wrong" girls are keeping their babies, 2) the conservative framework which holds that an unwed teenager who relies on welfare and refuses to give her baby up for adoption (having properly rejected abortion) serves as the epitome of a "wrong family," and 3) oppositional discourse which provides a "wrong society" framework and is articulated in the alternative media. A "stigma-is-wrong" framework is then provided by the self-interpretation of the teen mothers who hold that the right to choose is essential and that it is inappropriate to stigmatize any choice. The bureaucratic viewpoint is the most common winner in this media contest and helps to frame the public debate and public policy about teenage motherhood and, thus, profoundly influences the daily lives of young mothers and their children by perpetuating negative stereotypes.

Report this publication

Statistics

Seen <100 times