‘Nappy bags instead of handbags’: Young motherhood and self-identity

Rebecca Shea, Lia Bryant, Sarah Wendt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    This article presents the findings of an Australian study that aimed to explore how young women construct their self-identity while negotiating motherhood and the associated transition to adulthood. Teenage motherhood, within contemporary discourse, often attracts negative assumptions about young women’s worth and ability to parent. This study used a combination of semi-structured interviews and memory work to draw out women’s stories and give voice to their experiences of becoming mothers. Three key themes were induced from the findings: pride and self, autonomy and change, and resilience. This article explores these themes that are, in many ways, a resistance and challenge to dominant public discourse, and relates them to how young women ascribe positive meaning to their experiences of becoming mothers. The findings demonstrate women’s autonomy in shaping their lives in the way they forge relationships and raise their children. The article concludes by examining the implications of meaning-making in relation to self-identity for young mothers to inform service provision.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)840-855
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Sociology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


    • identity
    • memory work
    • motherhood
    • young mothers


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