Skip to main content
Reproducing Stories: Strategic Narratives of Teen Pregnancy and Motherhood
Social Problems (2014)
  • Aline C Gubrium, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Pregnant and parenting young women are simultaneously silenced and overrepresented by raced and classed social narratives on adolescent childbearing in the United States. These narratives posit teen childbearing as an unequivocal social, health, and economic problem, although some scholars and policy makers construct alternative narratives that focus on inequalities and propose different perspectives on causes and consequences. Narrative inquiry that analyzes how stories are produced and utilized can enable a more nuanced approach to complex social problems. We conducted 19 individual, in-depth, and semistructured interviews with young mothers ages 16 to 21 who attend a community-based alternative education program in a low-income northeastern city. Interviews were analyzed using thematic narrative techniques. The young mothers we interviewed used a process of strategic negotiation to distance themselves from prevailing social and cultural stories about the problem of teen motherhood. Participants demonstrated this strategic process through their attempts to assuage stigma and construct unproblematic identities. Young mothers reproduced and reinterpreted a variety of circulating narratives on teen childbearing. They reproduced dominant narratives through pathology, missed adolescence, and redemption stories, and reinterpreted dominant narratives through stories of stratified reproduction, sexual health education, and stigmatization and surveillance. Our participants' narratives illustrate the need to think broadly about the meanings of early pregnancy and motherhood in terms of how they play out in research and policymaking. We call for a discursive shift in ways of knowing about and doing research and policy surrounding teen childbearing.
  • teenage pregnancy,
  • narrative inquiry,
  • reproduction,
  • race,
  • class,
  • gender,
  • social policy
Publication Date
August, 2014
Citation Information
Aline C Gubrium. "Reproducing Stories: Strategic Narratives of Teen Pregnancy and Motherhood" Social Problems Vol. 61 Iss. 3 (2014)
Available at: