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Child mothers; social circumstances and treatment problems of unmarried mothers of school age Kaufmann, Theresa


Illegitimacy is an old problem, but illegitimacy among school aged children (thirteen to sixteen) appears to have new features, at least in North America, and perhaps increased incidence. The present study is an exploratory one on two points: (a) what can be regarded from contemporary research and writing on the subject, on the causes; (b) what are the appropriate services and treatment principles: both are of particular concern for social workers, who are called on in various circumstances to deal with the girls, their children and their parents. Current literature, particularly from social science sources, is reviewed; and this suggests a number of inferences and insights: of contemporary adolescent society and teenage subculture; of gang influences and status conflicts; of the role of young girls in relation to gang and sexual experimentation encouraged by them. Community attitudes towards the unmarried mother and her specific problems, are illustrated by Jamaica. The Manchester study is a two year project produced by the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Manchester. Fifty unwed girls are discussed; their personality typologies, and their degree of normality. The second part of the study reviews a group of actual case histories drawn from the Children's Aid Society of Vancouver's 1960 records, and these are analyzed with special reference to their social contacts and family relationships. Three particular documented cases exemplify the gang influences, the child from the broken home, and the child reacting to family stress. From both sources (general literature and specific cases) there is most evidence of two forces at work, (a) young people are today exposed to numerous unfavorable community influences including inconsistent or confusing social attitudes which can lead to illicit sex relations; (b) girls from disrupted families may become "sensitized", and vulnerable risks, because the internal pressures reinforce the external or group pressures on them in their daily life.

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