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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Early motherhood: a qualitative study exploring the experiences of African Australian teenage mothers in greater Melbourne, Australia

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Mimmie Claudine Ngum Chi Watts, Pranee Liamputtong, Celia Mcmichael
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

1) All authors listed on this manuscript have made substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; 2) All authors have been involved in drafting the manuscript or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 3) have given final approval of the version to be published. MCNCW carried out the research which was towards an academic qualification. PL and CM supported and guided her during the research process. MCNCW conceived the study; PL and CM participated in its design, coordination and helped to draft the manuscript and made contributions as the manuscript evolved. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Motherhood is a significant and important aspect of life for many women around the globe. For women in communities where motherhood is highly desired, motherhood is considered crucial to the woman’s identity. Teenage motherhood, occurring at a critical developmental stage of teenagers’ lives, has been identified as having adverse social and health consequences. This research aimed to solicit the lived experiences of African Australian young refugee women who have experienced early motherhood in Australia.


This qualitative research used in-depth interviews. The research methods and analysis were informed by intersectionality theory, phenomenology and a cultural competency framework. Sixteen African born refugee young women who had experienced teenage pregnancy and early motherhood in Greater Melbourne, Australia took part in this research. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed and data analysed using thematic content analysis. Ethics approval for this research was granted by Victoria University Human Research Ethics committee.


Motherhood brings increased responsibilities, social recognition, and a sense of purpose for young mothers. Despite the positive aspects of motherhood, participants faced challenges that affected their lives. Most often, the challenges included coping with increased responsibilities following the birth of the baby, managing the competing demands of schooling, work and taking care of a baby in a site of settlement. The young mothers indicated they received good support from their mothers, siblings and close friends, but rarely from the father of their baby and the wider community. Participants felt that teenage mothers are frowned upon by their wider ethnic communities, which left them with feelings of shame and embarrassment, despite the personal perceived benefits of achieving motherhood.


We propose that service providers and policy makers support the role of the young mothers’ own mother, sisters, their grandmothers and aunts following early motherhood. Such support from significant females will help facilitate young mothers’ re-engagement with education, work and other aspects of life. For young migrant mothers, this is particularly important in order to facilitate settlement in a new country and reduce the risk of subsequent mistimed pregnancies. Service providers need to expand their knowledge and awareness of the specific needs of refugee teen mothers living in ‘new settings’.
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