Former young mothers’ pathways through higher education: a chance to rethink the narrative

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This paper draws attention to how markers of adulthood linked to education and employment form an influential social narrative and argues that these help to construct teenage motherhood as problematic. Social policies, informed by this narrative, reinforce
the idea of a “correct” path through education and into employment from which young mothers deviate and must be realigned to.

This paper draws on a sample of former young mothers who had largely progressed into higher education and sheds light on how their pathways were possible and what challenges they encountered. It therefore joins others in challenging common conceptualisations of teenage motherhood as inevitably leading to educational failure.

This paper seeks to open a further avenue to this debate however, in that it questions the wisdom of utilising predetermined markers of success to measure the achievement of young mothers. As the accounts discussed here show, a later data collection point enables us to see how “outcomes”, but also priorities, change. Furthermore, by highlighting stories of pride and joy outside of
markers of adulthood, it also encourages us to reflect on the effects of a normative social narrative which depicts divergence
as failure. The paper therefore seeks to strike a note of caution in the ways in which we define success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEducational Review
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2022


  • Teenage motherhood
  • adolescent mothers
  • adulthood
  • stigma
  • teenage mothers
  • young mothers


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