Journal Article

Discursive Struggles Within Social Welfare: Restaging Teen Motherhood

Iara Lessa

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 36, issue 2, pages 283-298
Published in print February 2006 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online July 2005 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Discursive Struggles Within Social Welfare: Restaging Teen Motherhood

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This paper is an attempt at exploring the contemporary neo-liberal contexts in which social and community services operate and the opportunities for undertaking struggles around rights and entitlements to social welfare within this context. It discusses the centrality of single motherhood for the redefinition of the relationships of shared well-being among citizens and proposes the frameworks of discourse analysis and identity construction as central in contemporary debates. The paper examines the discourses of an agency servicing teen mothers and explicates some strategies through which these discourses perform an entitled teen motherhood. Subverting the general identity assigned to these mothers by society, research and traditional social services, the discourses of this agency open a space in which poor young women are enacted as young parents, entitled to supports, respite and a voice in society. The discursive strategies have been successful in attracting resources for the mothers involved with the agency, though questions remain regarding the possibilities of their widespread application within other social welfare environments. A few concluding thoughts explore the new social welfare environment and call for a renewed understanding of the contexts of practice and the possibilities of subversion.

Keywords: Teen mothers; discourse analysis; neo-liberalism; social welfare

Journal Article.  6670 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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