NoPublic discourse in Britain sees teenage motherhood as a pernicious social problem where mothers, their children and society generally will all suffer. Fathers are seen as feckless. This is reflected in New Labour's teenage pregnancy strategy, which understands teenage parents as victims of ignorance, mis-information, and low expectations. But a review of the research evidence finds that the age at which pregnancy occurs has little effect on social outcomes. Many teenage mothers describe how motherhood makes them feel stronger, and marks a change for the better. Many fathers seek to remain connected with their children. For both, parenting seems to provide an impetus to take up education, training and employment. Teenage parenting may be more of an opportunity than a catastrophe, and often makes sense in the life worlds inhabited by young mothers. The paper ends by asking how we can explain this yawning gulf between the experience of teenage parenting and policy, and concludes that this largely rests on assumptions of rational choice, in turn creating a `rationality mistake'
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