The transformative potential of young motherhood for disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Townsville, Australia
Larkins, Sarah L., Page, R. Priscilla, Panaretto, Kathryn S., Mitchell, Melvina, Alberts, Valerie, McGinty, Suzanne, and Veitch, P. Craig (2011) The transformative potential of young motherhood for disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Townsville, Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 194 (10). pp. 551-555.
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Objective: To explore attitudes to pregnancy and parenthood among a group of Indigenous young people in Townsville, Australia.
Design and participants: Mixed methods and a cross-sectional design involving Indigenous women from a Young Mums Group designing the research instruments and acting as peer interviewers. Data were collected in 2004 from young Indigenous people who had never been pregnant (171 students at three high schools and 15 people at a homeless youth shelter) using a computer-assisted self-administered survey; from 59 of this group who also participated in single sex focus group discussions; and from 10 pregnant and parenting young women in individual semi-structured interviews.
Main outcome measure: Self-reported attitudes and behaviour about aspirations, pregnancy and parenthood. Results: Only eight of 186 young Indigenous people who had never been pregnant reported wanting to have a child as a teenager. Large proportions of this group of 186 reported idealised views about pregnancy, particularly young men, with 50.5% reporting that being a parent would always be enjoyable, and 62.6% reporting that being a mother or a father would not change their lives. Idealised views were associated with earlier sexual initiation (P =0.001). Issues identified in the narratives of young mothers related to difficult backgrounds, pregnancy "just happening" to them, and the transformative impact of having a child on their lives and aspirations.
Conclusions: Accurate parenting information may be necessary to address unrealistic views about parenting among Indigenous young people. Young Indigenous parents often come from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds, and becoming a parent may be the impetus for positive change.