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Children having children? Religion, psychology and the birth of the teenage pregnancy problem

Koffman, Ofra (2012) Children having children? Religion, psychology and the birth of the teenage pregnancy problem. History of the Human Sciences, 25 (1). pp. 119-134. ISSN 0952-6951

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0952695111426383


This article presents a genealogical examination of the emergence of governmental concern with ‘children having children’, focusing on the work of the London County Council and local voluntary organizations in the 1950s and 1960s. The article explores the moral-Christian discourse shaping governmental work with ‘unwed mothers’ and identifies the discursive shifts associated with the ascent of the problematization of ‘teenage motherhood’. It is argued that within the moral-Christian discourse, a woman’s subjectivity was delineated primarily according to her ‘character’ not her age or her ‘maturity’. Furthermore, the prospect that a young unwed mother will raise her child was viewed positively as it was seen to contribute to the desired transformation of her character. The shift to a concern with ‘children having children’ was linked with a rise in the influence of psychological discourse on government work. Two psychological notions were particularly important: the proposition that teenagers are emotionally immature and the assertion that inadequate mothering has a lasting effect on the health of a child. The article concludes that unless contemporary scientific claims regarding young people’s psychological and physiological maturity are challenged, the ‘problem’ of teenage parenthood will persist in the years to come.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 The Author
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2014 11:37
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2020 03:38

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