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Individual conversational interviews (March-September 2013)

pertaining to observations I had made, field notes and the tentative codes I had applied when analysing the transcription of the pilot interview. One perception that emerged at this early stage was the strong value these young women placed on motherhood. This encouraged me to explore this in the subsequent interviews. After I conducted the first interview, I transcribed it and listened to the interview again while comparing the written transcript for accuracy. I then began the coding process in a similar manner to the pilot interview. Instead of dissecting participants’ transcripts (narratives) line by line, I chose to use sections of dialogue to code (Appendix G).

I then interviewed the second and third participants before having the opportunity to transcribe the second participant’s interview. It was at this time that the processes of gathering data, transcribing interviews, and analysing the data happened concurrently. As I became immersed in the data, I detected the nuances of the research-participant relationship. For example, I noticed when there was reciprocity in the conversation. There were times when we mutually encouraged each other, such as when I encouraged a participant:

Code Text Notations

‘Things hard’


R: Can you tell me a little bit about that – that’s intriguing?

P: Yeah, I don’t know.... It’s like when things get hard I just think of him

R: Would you say he motivates you?

(TN) – What it’s like to be a mum-life as a mum


96 Donna: Is everything okay?

Teen mum: Yeah, it’s …just…

Donna: (Nodding). I know. It’s your story. You tell it your way. Teen mum: Exhales. Yeah nah. It’s not gonna be pretty…it was like… There were other occasions where participants encouraged me:

Donna: I’m not sure if I asked you this already?...

Teen mum: What is it? About Phoenix’s (pseudonym) dad? Donna: …Um yeah (hesitant)

Teen mum: It’s all good. I’ll talk about him now. What do you want to know?

The above examples highlight the iterative process of having a conversation, the stops and starts, the ‘getting to know one another’; the trust and revisiting topics enabled the interview to flow as more of a dialogue, rather than an interview.

Similar to the process described in the pilot interview, I then coded the data looking for meaning units. I then searched for ways to reduce the number of codes in the process that generated themes. Braun and Clarke (2006) claim that “ a theme captures something

important about the data in relationship to the research questions, and represents some level of patterned response of meaning within the data set.” (p. 82). As the coding, theme

generation and interviewing occurred simultaneously, it is challenging to note exactly when I felt that the number of themes reflected the main aspects of lived experience according to the young women.

I analysed the themes by drawing on the processes promoted by Gibson and Brown (2009) “investigating commonality; investigating difference; and investigating relationships” (pp. 128-129). For instance, one theme that was prominent throughout my data set was the need for support. Within this theme (and others), similarities and variances were explored in addition to how support was associated to other themes. Relationships between data were established, which led to coded data being linked and progressively unified. Then each data


set was reconsidered and patterns were explored. I then went back to my research journal to consider my notes; together with the Search/Find function of Microsoft Word I was able to develop an initial theme chart.

Using “latent or (interpretive codes)” (Terry, Hayfield, Clarke & Braun, 2017, p. 26), I coded the data going beyond the meanings expressed by young women, to the underlying

patterns/stories in the data. This process requires a researcher to apply the theoretical

framework on the data requiring more interpretation or insight (Terry et al., 2017). I therefore examined the data for similarities and anomalies within the themes that were produced. In this stage, I explored the relationships of categories to each other by making connections between them. I listed the themes and reviewed the data set to identify both properties and dimensions of each theme with evidence from the data. Next, I wanted to ask questions of the data to be sure I was analysing it as carefully as possible. I wanted to be sure I was ‘seeing the data’ as accurately as possible. Strauss and Corbin (1990) describe this as theoretical sensitivity‒moving from a descriptive level to the analytical.

My interpretation of how the young women took on the role of becoming a mother provided the framework for organising the findings. Because my methodology was social

constructionism, I was motivated to start my interpretation using the metaphor presented by several of the young mothers, that of a journey. Initially, during my time in the field where I observed the young mothers, I was an “enlightened witnessed” (Miller, 1988) of this journey (research setting). Being an ‘enlightened witness’ gave me the opportunity to witness the experiences, changes or transformation that the young women experienced on their journey of becoming a good mum.


Later it was confirmed in their telling (data collection) of ‘making their way ‘, (which is one definition of a journey). To me this offered me a way to present the data as a ‘story’ of the young women’s journey of becoming what they termed a ‘good’ mum. I began by organising the data in terms of ‘becoming a young mother5. I then moved from one young mother’s story

to another, checking that each new account confirmed the main features of the previous accounts, of ‘becoming a young mother’. In other words, by identifying the common

elements in the trajectories of the different young mothers I developed what may be thought of as a collective story. According to Elliott (2005), the ‘collective story’ represents the shared experiences and reveals the important features underpinning each individual's experiences.

One question that I asked the young women during the interview was, If you were to write a letter to your child that s/he was to open on her/his 13th birthday what would it say?

(Appendix F). My reason for asking this question was to explore the ways in which the young women constructed the key elements of their identity as a mother. Although the young

women did not actually write such a letter, their responses were analysed for concepts/themes and in Chapter 7, their responses are presented in the form of a letter.

As noted above, I took the opportunity of a scheduled focus group to solicit feedback from the one participant who was able to attend to check on the accuracy of my initial

interpretations. I also used regular debriefings with my supervisors throughout the analysis stage to interpret data collected from interviews and observations, to strengthen my

5I refer to the participants as ‘young mothers’ acknowledging my admiration and respect. However, they often

referred to themselves as teen mums, so I respected their way of referring to themselves in the chapters that their voices are shared. The young mothers themselves do not see the term ‘teen mums’ in negative terms. However, I have observed society still holding onto a negative connotation of ‘teen mums’ which may have implications under the social justice rubric.


understanding of the sociocultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand, and to discuss concepts and emerging themes as a form of code checking.

I asked the participants to read the transcript of their interview as a form of “member checking” of my record of their words (Birt, Scott, Cavers, Campbell, & Walter, 2016). Member checking is a technique for exploring the credibility of results, also known as

participant validation where “Data or results are returned to participants to check for accuracy and resonance with their experiences’” (Birt et al., 2016, p. 1802). Two participants clarified sections of their transcript and another participant provided valuable insight about what sharing her story had meant to her. After reading her transcript, she was quiet for a moment and said, “Wow, I didn’t know I said that much. I guess there’s really been a change in me, aye. Guess it must have been everything I’ve been through. Thanks for letting me tell it.” This process demonstrated the iterative process of constructionist research where

conversations followed by participants’ reading of the written account, and further conversations lead to a shared meaning. In this way, “the fit between their [researcher’s] interpretations and their subjects’ understanding” (Mishler, 1986, p. 125) functions as a validity check on a researcher’s data collection.

Initially in my data analysis, I began writing one of the participant’s interviews as her story (journey). However, I soon realised that without a second or subsequent interview, this story was only partial and that presenting it as a story might undervalue what she talked about because of omissions. More importantly, I was aware that presenting my data as individual narratives meant that the participants’ anonymity could not be assured. For these reasons, I decided that presenting the findings thematically would retain anonymity and enable

important parts of each participant’s story to shine. I was, however, mindful of the potential for the use of themes to suggest that all young mothers displayed a particular attribute.


Because this was not the case, I decided to return to the data to explore individual differences and commonalities.

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