School of applied human sciences : understanding the lived experiences of teenage parents in a designated secondary school in a Durban township.
Irrespective of age, parenthood can be a life-changing event, which is filled with mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement for the journey ahead. There is increased anxiety and pressure for school-going teenagers that enter parenthood, as this adds to their major role responsibilities of learner, another major role of mother or father, which represent competing and conflict demands. Managing the conflicting roles can be extremely daunting and impact the day-to-day functioning of learners. Society assumes different roles for men and women, especially around parenthood that are based on presumed age of maturity amongst other factors. While the dominant societal discourse is on the problem of teen pregnancies and teen parents, their underlying structural determinants are often over-looked. The pathology-based approach labels and categories teen parents as problems. They are often described in condescending language, which overlooks the root causes of high rates of teen parenthood. Consistent with dominant stereotypical gender discourses, teenage fathers are often ignored. This study was designed to understand the experiences and narratives of both teenage fathers and mothers in a secondary school environment. The study employed a qualitative paradigm and a descriptive-exploratory design. The participants were identified through the use of convenience and snowball sampling. They were a total of 11 black African participants, seven being females and four being males. The data was collected using a focus group interview and semi-structured individual interviews. Audio-recorded sessions, which were transcribed and field notes were coded and developed into themes. The findings revealed that financial challenges, and disruption in schooling induced by entering parenthood while still being a learner were majors concern. There were also positive experiences that were born out of their challenging circumstances such as personal growth, increased sense of responsibility, and childrearing providing a sense of purpose and hope. But none of them would recommend other learners falling pregnant, and they suggested ways in which teen pregnancies might be prevented. There were some clear gender differences in the experiences of teen mothers and fathers. On the basis of the major findings and existing literature, recommendations are made in respect of policy, practice and further research.