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Unpacking the social constructions of motherhood: Exploring mother presence among young African women

experience of pregnancy and childbirth are life changing for women. In most African societies, childcare is often a woman’s responsibility. The motherhood journey of a young woman may be significantly impacted by the presence and/or absence of a biological mother. The presence of a biological mother is regarded as important in all stages of development, particularly for female children. However, mothers are absent for a number of reasons including their death. The absence of a biological mother exposes children to various challenges, including poverty, poor educational attainments and health issues. A growing body of research in South Africa has focused on father absence; however, few has explored mother absence and the implications this has on children. Therefore, this study aimed to unpack the meaning of motherhood as socially constructed by young African women in a township of KwaZulu-Natal province. The study sought to explore the perspectives and experiences of young women, taking into consideration the presence and/or absence of a biological mother. A qualitative research methodology was employed and data was obtained through telephonic interviews with 20 young women who grew up living with the presence of their biological mothers as well as 20 young women who grew up in the absence of their biological mothers. Young women were recruited using purposive and snowball sampling. The findings of the study suggest that the presence of a biological mother was significant for women who fell pregnant at a young age. Even though grandmothers and extended family members were actively supporting young women who had absent mothers, the presence of a biological mother was deemed essential for women. The transition from girlhood to motherhood was accompanied by numerous implications for young women. Financial challenges stemming from unemployment, poor economic backgrounds and father absence affected young mothers. This negatively impacted education and career aspiration of certain young women. The study recommends the involvement of families, government and private stakeholders in supporting young mothers. This can be achieved by enhancing family support programmes within communities. Furthermore, the promotion of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is deemed important for the reduction of high rates of unemployment among young women in South Africa.

Keywords: young mothers, township, South Africa, experiences, qualitative

Full Name
Dr Thobelani Nompilo Majola