The psycho-social experiences of unwed teenage mothers in faith communities : a qualitative study.
Ngcobo, Bongiwe Fidelma.
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The current study investigated the experiences of unwed adolescent mothers in faith communities, the Roman Catholic Church in particular. The study was motivated by the fact that, despite the Christian sexual ethic, which prohibits sex outside wedlock, many young unmarried women in faith communities do become pregnant. The study thus sought to investigate the lived experiences of these young women, their psychological and social experiences of unwed motherhood in the church community. Factors contributing to teenage pregnancy, sources of social support and possible intervention mechanisms were also explored. A semi-structured interview schedule was developed, and thirteen (13) participants ranging in age from 18-22 years were interviewed individually and in focus groups. The results indicate that unwed teenage mothers in faith communities experience a range of psychological and social experiences, including frustration, feelings of depression, social exclusion and discrimination by fellow church congregants. Stigma theory and stigma consciousness were used to account for these experiences. Peer pressure and gendered power relations were cited among the causes of unwed teenage pregnancy, while payment of damages and re-admission to the community of believers following a confession were cited among the sources of social support. The study concludes that sex education and communication between parents and their teenage girls are essential in dealing with the problem of unwed teenage pregnancy. The study concludes with recommendations for practice and further research.
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