Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Influence of Media on Teen Motherhood

 Photo Source:

So I have been thinking…my last posts have dealt mainly with the expectations and experiences of adult mothers. What about the teen mothers in America? Many adults attribute recent teen pregnancies to the popularity of the MTV television series: 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2

I began to question the correlation of the shows and the American teen mother rates, and after some research, found some very interesting statistics.
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According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the most common critiques found regarding the effect of the above MTV programs on teen motherhood are that the programs “glamorize” motherhood and encourage young girls to get pregnant due to hopes of landing a spot on the show. However, a 2010 public opinion poll of over 1000 teens conducted by Social Science Research Solutions (, concluded that shows about teenage motherhood and pregnancy actually:
  • “Help teens better understand the challenges of pregnancy and parenting” 82% Agree
  • “[Make teens] think more about [their] own risk of getting pregnant/causing a pregnancy and how to avoid it”  80% Agree Strongly/Somewhat 
  • "Stories and events in TV shows and other media about sex, love, and relationships can be a good way to start conversations with adults about these topics.” 76% Agree Strongly/Somewhat
  • How often would you say you and your parents have talked about sex, love, and relationships because of something you saw in popular media (like television shows)? 47% Often/Sometimes
Video Source:  16 & Pregnant  YouTube 

When considering this data, one is able to see several positive effects the MTV programs 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and Teen Mom 2 have had on the prevention of teenage motherhood through the increased of awareness of the challenges of teen pregnancy and use of birth control. The programs have acted as a way to begin and increase conversations between parents and their teens  regarding sex, pregnancy and utilization of birth control. Shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom offer an arguably accurate view of the trials and tribulations faced by American teen mothers. 

Below is an overview of other teen motherhood media featured events.

Photo Source:  OK! Magazine

Jamie Lynn Spears was a popular Nickelodeon star headlining the show Zoey 101.  She was 16 when she and her newborn were profiled on the cover of OK! Magazine. 

Click below to view a segment from Spears' show Zoey 101.

Video Source:  Zoey 101 "Boys vs. Girls" clip.

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Juno is a critically acclaimed film that focused on an independent teen and her unplanned pregnancy.  Watch the official film trailer by clicking HERE.

Photo Source:  ABC Family


The Secret Life of the American Teenager is telecast by ABC Family.  The story line focuses on Amy, an unwed teen mom and her family and friends.  Amy loses her virginity at summer band camp and soon learns that she is pregnant.  The series has just completed its' fifth year season. Watch the original series trailer from 2008 below.  

Video Source:  The Secret Life of the American Teenager trailer 

While many parents continue to worry about the media influencing  young teens in terms of glamorizing pregnancy and motherhood, teen pregnancy rates have fallen dramatically. According to, American, teen pregnancy rates have been “declining rapidly”. The title of the article “U.S. Teen Pregnancy Rates at an All-Time Low Across All Ethnicities” by Michelle Castillo reports these findings. America has experienced a record 44% decrease in the number of teen pregnancies from 1991 to 2010. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accredit this drop to “effective use [of] prevention messages” (Casillo, 2012). For more details regarding the nation-wide decline of diverse ethnic teens experiencing motherhood, check out the complete article by clicking HERE.

Mommy Blogs...A Lifeline for Mothers

Photo Source:  Google Images

Behold the power of the “Mommy Blog”! Mommy Blogs offer mothers across America an opportunity to vent, share, and connect on the stresses and joys of motherhood. This form of uncensored, no holds, real life motherly opinions and experiences reiterate the message that mothers are not alone in the issues and societal expectations they face.

Mommy Blogger” Lizbeth Finn-Arnold, discusses the personal, positive impact of blogging on her life as a woman and as a mother in the "Out of the Woods" passage she contributed to the book, Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined. Blogging offered Finn-Arnold a new outlet and perspective on the role of mothering. With limited prior knowledge to the options and various mothering styles, Finn-Arnold found blogs created by other mothers to offer new perspectives on mothering, helpful recommendations, and comfort in knowing she was not alone in her experiences. Through “Mommy Blogs” and by becoming a "mommy blogger", Finn-Arnold was able to feel a new-found sense of control, release, and calm as she typed advice and comments to mothers with similar frustrations and personal identity issues of motherhood. Preview the book, Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined by clicking HERE Visit Finn-Arnold's blog, Mom and Pop Culture- Exploring Motherhood, Writing, Film making, and Life in General by clicking HERE

The writings of "mommy blogs" offer women a chance to feel part of a positive and collective group interested in the betterment of the lives of their children and in their quality of life as mothers. "Mommy Blogs" are an excellent resource for women who are expecting their first child and those raising their third.

    Photo Credit: Tom & Katrien/Flickr.

In the November 2011 Maternal and Child Care Journal, Brandon T. McDaniel, a graduate student from Penn State's human development and family studies program published the findings of his study of 157 new mothers and their media use.  He found that over 60% of the group wrote their own blogs and about three/fourths of the group reported reading online blogs.  On average the entire group spent three hours on their home computers each day with much of this time online.  The mothers reported a greater connection with others outside the home and a feeling of well being.  Brandon said" It looks like blogging might be helping these women as they transition into motherhood because they may begin to feel more connected to their extended family and friends, which leads them to feel more supported."

Read McDaniel's complete study entitled New Mothers and Media Use:  Associations Between Blogging, Networking and Maternal Well Being online by clicking HERE.  

Mommy Blog Round-Up

Photo Source:  Google Images

Mommy blogs- specific to any interest/issue/situation- may be found online.  Following is just a small sampling of current online blogs:

Birth mother who regrets giving up child for adoption.
Young, African American mother of five who works from home
Single mother of four teens (three of which are autistic)

Step mom
Holistic/Earth mother of a toddler
Feminist mothering
Religious mother of multiples
Home school mom of five
Lesbian mothering in Texas

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Endless Search for Child Care

In American society, the value and expectations of child caregivers varies among males and females. While caregivers exist in all ages, races, sexes, and socio-economic forms, overlying generalizations and patterns subsist. For example, in America, men are typically more resistant to participating in the childcare process and women are expected to assume the role of chief caregiver and also the arranger of care. Stereotypes and assumptions often fuel the perceptions surrounding different caregivers and in turn affect the rights and legislation pertaining to caregivers.
Photo Source:  Google Images- Daycare Center

In The Price of Motherhood, author Ann Crittenden discusses the labors of childcare and the American economy. Crittenden goes in great depth discussing the views and ideals which have potentially played a role in the de-valuing of childcare givers and association of childcare as a “women’s issue”—especially in terms of men. In Chapter 4 of her book, Crittenden argues that nothing in American society, “counts unless it is bought or sold (“The Truly Invisible Hand, pg.66).” This in turn is limiting and lessening the value of childcare within politics and the economic sphere. Preview and read more from Crittenden's book, The Price of Motherhood at this link.

In recent years, research studies show that the quality of a child’s care received during the first years of life has a lasting impact on child development and behavior. In the article “Study Finds the Effects of Low-Quality Child Care Last into Adolescence” Journalist Rob Stein, with the Washington Post, reports:

    “The federally funded study, which has been tracking more than 1,300 children since 1991, found that obedience and academic problems among those who received low-quality care in their first 4 1/2 years of life persisted through their 15th birthdays,suggesting the potential for lifelong difficulties (Stein, 2010).”  This study reiterates
 the need and importance of positive and healthy childcare from an early age.  Read more from Stein's article by clicking HERE.

National Public Radio's All Things Considered program recently featured a segment called "The Challenges of Child Care: Emotional Decisions and a Constant Juggling Act."  Listen to the radio program by clicking HERE.  The program included the comments of 7 parents, caregivers and a grandmother- each discussing their personal challenges and frustrations attempting to locate dependable, affordable, safe and nurturing care for their children.

Photo Source:  Emily Bogle/NPR

Currently, American politics and economics are driven primarily by males. Due to the lack of female representation within government and big business corporations, legislation and rights surrounding female rights, typical female jobs, and female associated legislation suffer. Until the men of a patriarchal society, such as the United States, increase the awareness, importance, and worth of women’s issues and associated activities—such as childcare—the people and the related legislation will remain minuscule in value. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lesbian Mothering

Photo Source:  Google Images

Is maternal instinct/desire a biological or learned female quality? Scholars continue to debate the importance of experience on a woman’s desire to be a mother and on a woman’s capacity for motherly instincts. Nancy Mezey, author of New Choices, New Families: How Lesbians Decide about Motherhood, attempts to define the correlation between experience and maternal instinct/motherly desire—specifically in American Lesbians.

After interviewing a group of lesbian American’s, Mezey determined, “The process by which [women] developed [maternal] desire was largely based on the social and cultural conditions in which they grew up in (pg. 46).” Mezey’s findings not only iterate the importance of female development and experiences on one’s motherly desire but also the pivotal role played by a woman’s mother. For most of Mezey’s interviewees, positive and/or negative interactions with one’s mother directly impacted the motherly desires and perception of personal ability of each women to become a mother.  

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In addition to experiences and interactions with one’s own mother, media and societal norms/opinions greatly affect the motherly desires of lesbian Americans. In America, movies, books, and media push for heterosexual women to be married, have children, and to maximize “motherly duty.” Lesbian American’s, like those interviewed by Mezey, commented on opposite societal pressures, in which lesbian women and couples are encouraged to NOT participate in motherhood (Mezey). The pressure by society for lesbians to abstain from child raising directly impacts the motherly desires and perceptions of motherhood by lesbian Americans. 

Many authors and scholars, like Mezey, attempt to abolish the American societal norm which views sexuality as a determining factor in the mothering ability and instinct of American lesbians. Click here to preview and read a sample of Mezey's book online.

Read how a lesbian blogger has encountered this very issue at her It's Great Being A Lesbian blog.  

Whether motherly instinct and desires are developed or learned, pressures and life experiences had by homosexual American women significantly affect the motherly desires of women across the country. 


Interview “A Mothers Perspective”

During an impromptu family reunion, I found myself surrounded by generations of mothers. I became intrigued as to the different societal expectations and experiences endured by both my 52 year old mom and my 71 year old grandmother. Each were raised in the same rural, conservative Georgia town and I was curious to compare the child raising experience of my mother, to that of my grandmother.
My mother and grandmother.
I asked each the same eight questions. Their answers revealed the generational differences in perception of education, birth control, and several political issues surrounding mothering. A common thread in both responses was the belief in the importance of love and the enduring strength in the mother/child bond. The following interview illustrates how a mother’s love transcends generations.  

1. What influenced or made you want to become a mother?

My Mother 
"I was a reluctant mother.  Actually, I thought I would not have children and was married for almost 13 years before I had my first child---you. Thinking back, I don’t recall a magical “this is the time to start a family" moment. Since I married at such a young age (18) it was important to me to complete my undergraduate and graduate studies and have a block of work experience. I accomplished these goals and then began considering starting a family. I never felt especially maternal and becoming a mother was not a natural progression for me. I am very happy that I did have children. 
My Grandmother: 
"Well, I really wasn’t influenced- it just happened. Was I prepared? No. I learned as I went along. Pregnancy wasn’t discussed by mother/daughter in the late 50’s/early 60’s. I did not know anything about what was about to happen. I just turned up pregnant and did the best that I could. I had never thought of being a mother…I thought about having a career. It never occurred to me that you could be a mother and also have a career."

2. How do you think race or sexual orientation impacts mothering? Or does it impact mothering?

My Mother: 
"In terms of the 'skills' associated with mothering or the ability to nurture and care for a child- I don’t think race or sexual orientation makes a difference."
My Grandmother
"I think that race may have some influences on mothering." 

3. What is your definition of a “good” mother?

My Mother: 
"To me, a good mother is someone who nurtures and protects her children. Someone who is consistent, provides a positive role model and loves her children is a good mother. A good mother is “present” with her children and gives them the foundation to become who they are."
My Grandmother
"I think a good mother is one that loves her children more than anything else in the world. She would make any sacrifice to give them the important things in life. She would give them the proper training- teaching them to be truthful and honest, have good work ethics, have a Christian faith and make a contribution to the world to help others."

4. Are the challenges of mothering the same or different today (versus when you were a new mother)?

My Mother
"I believe it is more complicated. There are so many pressures for children to grow up too quickly. Peer pressure, bullying, mixed media messages and competition in the classroom have all escalated in an unhealthy way in my opinion. I feel it is trickier for mothers to navigate all of these pressures. Couple this with the current economy and financial pressures- I think mothering/parenting is extremely difficult today."
My Grandmother
"I think it is pretty much the same. In the era I had my children, most mothers worked. We have become accustomed to a lifestyle of two incomes in the family. One reason for this is that we wanted to provide more for our families than what we had growing up. Childcare was typically a neighbor to watch your children. There were no daycare or learning centers like they have today."

5. What forms of discipline does a “good” mother use?

My Mother: 
"I do not believe it is ever ok to spank or hit another person. Re-direction and time out are strategies I think a good mother uses with younger children and then with older children, I think that grounding and putting special items like iPods/cell phones in time out could be appropriate."
My Grandmother
"I don’t think this was good mother’s choice, but it was the only choice I thought I had--- spanking. I don’t see that as a good way of discipline today. I think when teaching children how to behave and make good choices that it is better to take things away that the child enjoys or maybe time out- I think that also works."

6. In your opinion, how important is it for a woman to be a mother?

My Mother: 
"Becoming a mother is a personal choice. It is not the right choice or necessary for all women. I have and continue to support Pro-Choice."
My Grandmother
"I think some women make better mothers than others and I think it is a choice. If you think you don’t want children, I think you should not have children. It would be hard to be a good mother if you didn’t want children. I think if you have the desire, regardless of your economic or educational situation, I believe you could be a good mother."

7. In your opinion, is a “blood” mother (birth mother) the same or different from an adoptive mother?

My Mother: 
"I do believe that an adoptive mother can share the same connection and love that a birth mother has for a child."
My Grandmother
"I think the only way that they actually differ is that the blood mother actually carries and delivers the child. My experience with adoptive mothers is that they wanted a baby so badly that they made wonderful mothers because of that strong desire. A natural mother has a baby- sometimes the baby is wanted and sometimes the baby is not wanted."

8. In your opinion, how does our society view an older mother (over age 35) differently that a younger mother (less than 35) how has an infant? Please elaborate.

My Mother: 
"As an older expectant mother, I had “Advanced Maternal Age” stamped on my OB file. I think many people assume a woman has had fertility problems if she has her first infant at 35-40+. This was not the case for me and I did have people ask if it had taken awhile to become pregnant or was I too busy with my career. Many people are perplexed as to why some mother’s wait- I have often been one of the older moms in a school meeting or gathering. I think less educated people may view delayed motherhood differently. Actually, I think I am a better mother now than I would have been to a child when I was younger."
My Grandmother
"I think it is more acceptable to be an older mother than years ago- in the past, people would look at the older mother with her child and wonder if the woman was the child’s grandmother. Today, life is about choices and some women decide to have a career first and then a family--- today that option seems more possible than years ago. Birth control was not as available or effective back in my day. I think that an older woman can be just as good or maybe better than a young mother because of life experiences." 


Read what other mothers have experienced in the generational divide in this blog entry called The Modern Mother at

Letter from the Blogger


My name is Margaret Patterson and welcome to my blog! 

Have you ever acknowledged the various forms of the mothering experience had by American mothers? How about the role of media and society on the expectations of mothers? Have you ever questioned how motherhood has changed from generation to generation in America?

Photo Credit:  Nathan Gibbs/
Over the next several posts I will be identifying key perspectives, ideas, and observations regarding motherhood in America. My posts will discuss the roles of history, society, sexuality, race, socio-economic status, and media on the perspectives and experiences of mothers in America.

Currently enrolled in a college course entitled (click here) American Motherhood, I have grown increasingly aware of the various hardships experienced by different types of American mothers. Through this course I have made several discoveries. Such personal findings include a new found sense of awareness to the various issues and expectations which plague a variety of American mothers, each in a unique way. This realization allows me to be more mindful of society created generalizations and stereotypes and help me to be more aware of the expectations I place on mothers. With the course drawing to an end, I find myself interested in doing further research regarding the actual mothering experience of various forms of American mothers.     

Through this blog I hope to expose and discuss several of these issues and their ramifications on both women and families. In addition, I hope to provide readers with links to other blogs and suggestions for further reading and research.

Happy Blogging!  

Margaret Patterson