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Exploring constructions of motherhood in young women in higher education

Mackenzie, Martha Rose (2013) Exploring constructions of motherhood in young women in higher education. Manchester Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

We live in a pronatalist society. Discourses construct motherhood as an institution within our society and having children as an essential part of a woman’s life. Neoliberal notions of individualism reinforce these ideas. Feminists contest this viewpoint, arguing that societal norms create an expectation of motherhood. There is evidence to suggest that women who pursue higher education and professional careers are less likely to have children. This study looked at how young women in higher education construct their ideologies of motherhood, how they attach this to adulthood and femininity and how this affects their motivations and plans. Six semi-structured interviews were carried out with female non-mother students and analysed using a constructionist thematic analysis. Themes were developed within a feminist context to gain an understanding of how knowledge of motherhood is structured. The emerging themes showed how neoliberalism and feminism interact, and how this creates contradictions and dilemmas for young women.

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