Hoffmann, H., Lam, J. & Baxter, J. (2021). ‘Young Mothers in Australia: Prioritising Motherhood and Resisting Stereotypes’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2021-24. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.
Heidi Hoffmann, Jack Lam, and Janeen Baxter
Download: Life Course Centre Working Paper 2021-24
Young mothers are often faced with challenges and obstacles that older mothers may not come up against. They frequently report experiences of discrimination, stereotyping, and economic disadvantage. In this research we explore the experiences of young motherhood as reported by a group of young mothers in South-East Queensland who all had at least one child under the age of one. We talked to them about their experiences, goals, and aspirations.
In Australia, the majority of structured support programs are focused on engaging young mothers with further education (e.g., finishing High School or obtaining post-secondary qualifications) or supporting their return to paid employment. However, we find that the young mothers in our study prioritised their roles as mothers and were focused on providing full-time care to their children. Education and employment were seen to be secondary longer-term priorities. We found that parenthood is a catalyst for transitioning to more rewarding employment, but this is secondary to their goal of motherhood. We found strong evidence that young mothers actively resist stereotypes and challenges that are placed upon them as young mothers.
Our findings highlight the need for support programs that accommodate the individual needs of young mothers and will likely be more successful if young mothers’ goals and aspirations are incorporated. We also suggest that longitudinal research will offer even more insight into the experiences of young mothers beyond the early years of their children’s lives.