A Qualitative Study of the Educational Experiences of Pregnant and Mothering Teens
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Since the 1970s, teen pregnancy has been strategically placed at the forefront of American minds. Much attention, research, and funding is dedicated to teen pregnancy prevention and abstinence-only education, yet as many as one million teens still become pregnant each year. There are substantial life consequences for teens that become pregnant and choose to keep their children, and the majority of existing research would lead people to believe that all of these consequences are negative in nature, even though many young women who become parents while in high school continue to thrive. The purpose of this study was to investigate the educational experiences of pregnant and mothering teens who graduated from high school on academically rigorous, college preparatory curriculum programs. Specifically, this study took an in-depth look at the educational experiences of five female students who were pregnant and/or mothering when they graduated from a Texas high school on one of two optional curricular tracks—the Recommended High School Program and the Distinguished Achievement Program—that promote college readiness. This qualitative study included individual, semi-structured interviews and focus group meetings to give these teens a voice and to create rich, thick descriptions for educators to understand what enables some pregnant and mothering teens to be successful in high school. The participants for this study were randomly selected from a purposive sample at one suburban high school. Trustworthiness was established through triangulation, peer debriefing, member checking, and rich, thick description. The transcribed interviews and focus group meetings were categorized to establish patterns and themes in the data. Four major themes emerged from the data. In describing how they were able to successfully complete high school on academically rigorous plans, the study participants pointed to the importance of school relationships, including with peers, teachers, staff, and administration; the value of formal and informal in-school and out-of-school support systems; the need for balance, whether between school and motherhood or between their pregnant bodies and the limitations of their school’s physical environment; and the role of motivation and long range plans in their persistence. Ultimately, the teen mothers who participated in this study derived resiliency from these key assets and resources, and this resiliency enabled them to succeed. Even though the five participants in this study all had unique stories, they were all able to successfully graduate from high school on rigorous programs, while others do not. The young women in this study all made it very clear that mothering empowered them. Contrary to what many believe, they did not succeed in high school in spite of their status as pregnant and mothering teens; they did so because of it.
Gregg, Karee DeLyn (2015). A Qualitative Study of the Educational Experiences of Pregnant and Mothering Teens. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from