Enabling tertiary education for teen mothers: organisational insights

Graham, Maxine
Pio, Edwina
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

Literature has generally portrayed teen pregnancy as a social problem with adverse health, social and economic effects on the teen mother and her child. Research on teen mothers attending tertiary education is notably absent. This thesis identifies factors to enable teen mothers to transition to tertiary education. This research is significant because compared to international standards, New Zealand has a high rate of teen pregnancy (Kaipuke Consultants, 2012). Despite the challenges teen mothers face, this thesis highlights the dimensions through which teen mothers can successfully transition to tertiary education. Gaining a tertiary qualification is closely linked to income and general well-being (Earle, 2009). Scott (2009) stated that those higher levels of study are associated with higher earnings.

Using a qualitative research approach consisting of twelve semi-structured interviews in Auckland, New Zealand, factors that enable teen mothers to transition to tertiary education were identified. The twelve interviews included eight teen mothers (all of whom were of Māori ethnicity), three teen parent support organisations (TPSOs) and one interview with the Ministry of Education. By employing phenomenology as the methodology and exploring the participants’ lived experiences, this thesis allows the voices of the participants to be at the forefront. The use of thematic analysis means common themes are identified and discussed. Furthermore, by drawing on the researcher’s personal experience of being a Māori teen mother who is attending tertiary education herself and by employing Mason Durie’s te whare tapa whā (the four sided house) framework (Durie, 1994), this thesis seeks to holistically analyse the scholarly literature and interview findings.

The use of te whare tapa whā to analyse the interview findings and literature lead to the development of the model whare tangata (house of humanity). This model symbolically represents the key themes of Self Attributes of the teen mother (self-efficacy, high achievement, independence, resilience and cultural identity), Stigma (welfare dependence and educational underachievement), and Support (family, peer, institutional, the tertiary institution and financial). Identification of these factors can enable TPSOs to assist teen mothers through the transition to tertiary education.

As a consequence of the analysis undertaken, a number of practical recommendations emerged. These included delivering relevant teen parenting classes that focus on developing and growing families together and that both teen mothers and teen fathers can attend, identifying teen mothers with academic or tertiary potential and therefore enabling closer links with tertiary providers, and finally, tailoring support programmes, including scholarships, within the tertiary providers to support the transition to tertiary education. From this research process, the opportunity for future research in the following areas became evident; teen fathers, growing young families holistically, teen mothers in the South Island of New Zealand and a comparative analysis between non-teen mothers’ and teen mother’s tertiary journeys.

As with all research, this thesis identifies limitations. These include the diversity of the sample population, perspectives of TPSO interviews, the lack of Māori cultural nuances and the researcher biases. This thesis does not intend to represent all teen mothers or TPSOs; it does, however, attempt to provide initial conclusions from the experiences of the participants for this thesis. It is hoped these findings may be applicable to teen mothers and TPSOs in similar circumstances

Ethics approval was through the Auckland University of Technology Ethics Committee on19 July 2012 (AUTEC Reference number 12/50).

Whaowhia te kete mātauranga Fill the basket of knowledge

Teen mothers , Tertiary education
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