This presentation will provide an in-depth exploration of the perspectives of young mothers and peer-mentors. It will consider the use of the concept of “Resilience” and will also explore how contradictions in UK policy discourse on Parenting, Work and Early Childhood were manifested in participants’ accounts.
While UK policy discourses associate a range of poor outcomes and heightened risks with young parenthood, much qualitative research with young parents reports starkly contrasting experiences.
We report a study undertaken with users of the ‘Rhieni ifanc Ni’ programme which sought to develop young parents’ resilience through training and tailored support.
In-depth interviews were undertaken with parents (N = 10) and peer-mentors (N = 5). All were mothers. Discourse analysis was used to identify how participants located themselves (or their practice) in relation to their understanding of ‘good parenthood’, to expectations of a return to education or work and to “building resilience”.
Parents sought to develop calm and supportive relationships with their children. These were distinguished from their positive recollections of their own childhoods based around the locality (bro), risk-taking and relationships with siblings and cousins. The return to work or study was constructed by parents in terms of a series of tensions between child-centred and economic activity. Both groups constructed resilience in terms of confidence and coping. However, parents related coping to a longer biography including childhood difficulties and stigmas. Attributes of resilience were accessing and managing information and support, largely to mitigate the effects of low-income and rural isolation.
The results belie the assumption that Young Parenthood is experienced as a crisis. Parents’ ambivalent attitudes to work and study raise wider questions about tensions in the parental role and the place of child-centred development in policy. We will also consider the suitability of resilience as a conceptual model for managing external pressures.