Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work and Social Research


The romantic and sexual relationships of adolescent girls are still not sufficiently understood. For many years, the discourse about adolescent sexuality has focused almost exclusively on the negative consequences of sexual behaviors. This focus has limited much of the research in this area. The purpose of this study was to add to the existing literature by focusing, instead, on the adolescent mother's subjective experiences of romantic and sexual relationships.

This study was guided by an ecosystemic approach, using both a feminist and social constructionist lens to examine the narratives of the young mothers. Sexual Scripting Theory was used conceptually to help organize the participants' narratives for analysis. Participants (n = 17) were recruited from an alternative school setting for pregnant and parenting school-aged mothers. A semi-structured interview protocol was used to collect data on the participants' romantic and sexual experiences. The data was analyzed using the narrative analysis process, which consisted of the entering the text, sense-making, verifying or confirming, and representing stages.

This study found that the sexual and romantic lives of young women are complex and poorly understood. These young mothers clung to traditional sexual and romantic values. The women did not want to be seen as going against dominant sexual standards. Therefore, they continued to view themselves as having limited control over their sexual experiences. They hoped to find true love, and believed that nothing less should lead them into marriage. Consequently, they viewed themselves as having convoluted agency over their romantic relationships. In sum, they were struggling with concerns about marriage, romance, motherhood, and sexuality in ways that belied their youth.