Mary Breheny

Doctor of Philosophy, (Psychology)
Study Completed: 2006
College of Humanities & Social Sciences


Thesis Title
Constructions of Adolescent Motherhood: Discourse Analysis of the Health Professional Literature and Health Professionals' Talk about Young Mothers

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Dr Breheny’s research analysed medical and nursing journal articles about adolescent mothers and interviews with health professionals about the health care needs of adolescent mothers. Analysis of journal articles showed that adolescent mothers were discussed as part of a ‘cycle of disadvantage’, where becoming an adolescent mother is the result of individual choice or family deviance, which can be solved by intervening with disadvantaged individuals or families. In interviews with health professionals, adolescent mothers were described primarily as adolescents and their mothering was determined by these adolescent characteristics. This was contrasted with the requirements of being a ‘good’ mother. Associating adolescent motherhood with disadvantage and inability is likely to impact negatively on adolescent mothers’ experience of health care.

Professor Christine Stephens
Professor Mandy Morgan