Results of the Lisbon workshop - Young parenthood

The second UP2YOUTH thematic workshop took place in Lisbon in November 2007. Researchers from all over Europe working on one of the three topics young parenthood, ethnic minority youth or participation were invited to present and discuss their findings. The aim was to deepen the analysis with regard to complementary approaches and to broaden it with regard to regions and countries not involved in the UP2YOUTH consortium.

Our workshop discussion started from a collection of questions and emerging issues the thematic group had developed so far. Among them, there is a strong focus on learning processes in transitions to parenthood – an area which needs to be explored by further research.

  • What are tensions between options and constraints in Individualised transitions into parenthood?
  • Cultures of transitions into parenthood: are there (new?) practices within (old?) cultural frames?
  • Which engendering respectively degendering processes can be identified?
  • Which learning contexts have to be considered and how is learning related with negotiating meaning, images and normalities in transitions to parenthood?
  • Which policies are relevant between selfsteered networks and public support systems; and what is the impact of local regimes of transitions into parenthood?
Key issues of the debate were 1st dominant public discourses such as the demographic discourse or its counter-discourse, the moral panics on teenage pregnancy; 2nd, insights into developments in Sweden, Norway, and Estonia; and 3rd, rich material on young people’s decision making and negotiating processes. Eva Bernhardt, demographer from the University of Stockholm, presented findings from the Panel study of Swedish young adults, conducted during the last years. Two waves of questionnings of 22 to 34 year old young women and men have been analysed with regard to the mutual relationship between value orientations and family building. The results underline the complex interaction between diffrent factors of family building. Housing reveals to be a structural barrier, but above all subjective motives and cultural traditions have to be considered. An-Magritt Jensen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology of Trondheim, looked at the complexity of choices under different and partly provocative angles: by referring to data from European Surveys and the COST action A19, she highlighted the ambivalence of extramarital births from a children’s perspective. She also brought into mind that the silent revolution in partnerships also may provoque tendencies of re-traditionalisation – e.g. when lone mothers take over the whole responsibility for a child, or when men seek for a traditional workshare in marriages with (often much younger) women (often from a non-Norwegian background). Intercultural aspects also have been highlighted by Leeni Hansson from Tallinn University. She pictured a highly segregated situation of the Estonian society, in which ethnic ascriptions and belongings (Russian – Estonian) represents the most important demarcation line with regard to marriage markets, but also with regard to beliefs on work share among the partners. Julia Hirst from Sheffield Hallam University started from UK survey data and from her own studies on three generations of teenage pregnancy. She emphasized that against all moral panics on teenage pregnancy young people experience more difficulties from poverty and social ascriptions – e.g. reactions from family, school, neighborhood, employers – than from the age at which they became parents. She also highlighted some mostly hidden en-acting aspects of teenage parenthood, such as responsibility, meaning of life, and social bonds. In a gender perspective, this includes also new concepts of masculinity. Rachel Thomson from the Open University, Milton Keynes (UK) presented findings from longitudinal studies carried out together with various colleagues. She showed that transitions to parenthood and the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood they rely on are interlinked with (local) youth cultures, (local) normalities, (local) opportunity structures (education, work, housing) for young people. Self-concepts are deeply embedded in these contexts. They depend on the extent to which young women and men are achknowledged as responsible persons and are given the chance to experience themselves as such. Disa Bergnéhr from Linköping University analysed negotiation processes on parenthood in young couples. Through focus group interviews she found that couples negotiate especially ‘the ideal life course’, the tension between ‘love relationship and family’; ‘the right time for parenthood’ between the risks of damaging ones career and infertility, and last not least body matters.
In sum, the working group process has benefited from these contributions in several respects:
  • As regards theoretical perspectives, a multiperspective approach seems to be most appropriate for the complexity of factors playing together in transitions to parenthood.
  • As regards theoretical concepts, a deeper understanding especially of culture and learning has been achieved.
  • As regards methodology, a lot could be learnt from the variety of approaches and methods applied in the studies presented by our guests. Also in this regard, multi-methodological proceedings appear to be a highly promising way to achieve a better understanding of young women and men in their transitions to parenthood.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 05 February 2008 )