• Exploring How Teen Mothers in Foster Care Experience Motherhood: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

      Aparicio, Elizabeth; Pecukonis, Edward Vincent (2014)
      Teen pregnancy in foster care is an issue receiving increasing attention due to high pregnancy rates. Previous literature on both teen motherhood and foster youth is focused on negative outcomes, risk factors, and pathology. Despite this emphasis, a small, but growing body of literature on the experience of motherhood of teen mothers in foster care reflects a perspective that is not simply negative - a lived reality that is characterized by both risk and opportunity. The purpose of the current qualitative study was to explore the meaning and experience of motherhood for teen mothers in foster care. The study involved three in-depth interviews with 6 young women who had become mothers while in care. It employed interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA; Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009) to elicit, analyze, and re-present a rich account of this experience. Findings suggest the lived experience of motherhood for these young women is an intricate reality that brings past, present, and hoped-for future experiences into seamless unison in the midst of the intensely meaningful experience of becoming a mother. Participants discussed their interpretation of motherhood as offering a sense of hope for new beginnings and doing things differently than what had happened in their own families, yet simultaneously as a time of feeling plagued by the lingering effects of darkness and despair in their childhood and adolescence due to factors such as substance abuse, abuse and neglect, poverty, and the breakdown of family ties. The findings suggest that teen mothers in foster care experience becoming mothers as offering opportunities to change their identities from that of "foster child" to "mother", gain motivation and purpose, receive unconditional love, and work through their views on their own parents in the context of a new role. Implications include the need for comprehensive sexual health, substance abuse, and behavioral health services at all levels for child welfare-involved families and youth that include a significant focus on trauma, grief, loss, and attachment issues; better parenting support for teen mothers in foster care; and meaningful discussions about the unintended effects of child welfare intervention on communities related to teen pregnancy and motherhood.