Moral Tales of the Teenage Parent: Narratives of Change, Personal Transformation and Growth

Nadia Mantovani, Sandra Dowling, Sheila Hollins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This paper seeks to explore the moral accounts of young people’s own interpretation of their choice of parenthood, the new meanings in their lives brought about by the responsibility of parenthood, and the transformative experience that this responsibility generated. Drawing on a study of young parents in South West London this paper considers how the participants’ moral understanding is fundamentally shaped by the social construction of the 'good' parent. This study employs an interpretative methodology with in-depth interviews and focused on their choice to become a parent at a young age. Fifteen young people were interviewed aged 16-19; of these six were young mothers, five young fathers, and four currently pregnant. A narrative method to analyse the data was employed because moral sense-making and self-interpretation take a narrative form. In the worlds in which these young parents live they negotiated their own narratives of the child and adult divide; and they positioned themselves as moral agents by accounting for their parenthood choices and through the exercise of moral autonomy. They affirmed their moral adult identity through making themselves accountable for the imperative of becoming responsible adults. The empirical findings in this study may be corrective to public discourses about teenaged parents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-184
Number of pages15
JournalMarriage, Families and Spirituality
Issue number2
Early online date3 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016


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