Teenage mums still suffer from stigma, says university lecturer who had first child aged 14
PUBLISHED: 15:23 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:40 07 December 2017
Teenage mothers are some of the best in society but still unfairly suffer from stigma and abuse, a Suffolk mother-of-eight has said.
Public health lecturer Hayley Edwardson was aged 14 when she had her first child in unplanned circumstances in 1987.
But the University of East London (UEL) lecturer will be presenting in Parliament next year recent research on using Knowledge Exchange to address low birth-weight.
The 45-year-old, who grew up in Thetford and lives near the Suffolk/Norfolk border, said: “I have worked hard to get here but it’s important that people realise that their life is not over if you have a child at a young age.
“As a teenage mum, you come up against a lot of stigma and negativity. When I had my first son, some people would cross the road to avoid talking to my family because ‘that girl has had a baby – what sort of people are they?’
“When you are part of any marginalised group, it is very difficult to shake that off. We all make judgements, but people may not understand the personal circumstances.
“I think the media is sometimes irresponsible in how they portray teenage mums in such a poor light. They are misrepresented and left feeling very self-conscious. I think it’s unfair. But I think they make some of the best mums. I think they are less inhibited. They get so much bad press that they won’t be a good mum. They are often not taken as seriously as older mums. People think they can’t possibly make the right decision for their child, but that’s not true. I think they have a certain resilience, and perhaps when you are starting out you might be more open-minded.”
She said her family provided “absolutely amazing” support. Particularly, her father, Kenneth Hall. Nationally, teenage pregnancy rates have almost halved in the last eight years, partly due to. Mrs Edwardson cites better education and access to contraceptives for the fall.
“It has also become much more socially acceptable now, but there is still stigma attached to being a teenage mum,” she added.
Mrs Edwardson joined UEL in 2012 and studied for a BSc in Public Health. She will present the research on low birth-weights in Newham to Parliament next year.
She said: “It will be a great opportunity. I’m proud of my achievements but want to do much more in helping mothers to realise their aspirations.”