In-depth conversations with a sequential organising framework were the main method of data collection. In consultation with the head teacher and the young women, interviews were conducted on Monday afternoons. The interviews were conducted in the whānau (family) room of the Teen Parent Unit. This area was adjacent to the classroom and designed for students and their children to meet in private with representatives from outside agencies. Each interview lasted between one and two hours. The interview questions covered

significant life events, their pregnancy, relationships, and their experiences of being mothers at a young age (Appendix F). The sequential framework of the interview ensured that the


same topics were discussed with each young woman but was flexible enough to encourage them to freely express the thoughts, ideas and incidents that were important to them.

After the pilot study, four of the original nine participants were available to be interviewed; four young women had left the Teen Parent Unit, and one did not keep multiple appointments due to significant life factors at the time, such as relationship difficulties, and housing

insecurity. During the time that I was conducting interviews, one participant told her friend who had previously left the Teen Parent Unit, but had since returned, about the study and she became one of the participants. A newly enrolled young mother asked if she could be

interviewed and I agreed. Therefore, I interviewed six young women.

My initial intention was to conduct two interviews with each participant; however, this was not possible, as it took much longer to interview the six participants, which left little time to complete the second interview with the same young women. This was further complicated when some of the participants left the programme before the end of the year. My attempts to set up second interviews with those young mothers were unsuccessful. For this reason, I also attempted to include focus groups as a data collection method so that I could hear the stories of more participants. Unfortunately, the first focus group had to be cancelled and only one participant attended the second focus group. However, I used this opportunity to check the themes that had emerged from her individual interview. The data available for analysis therefore comprised six interviews from phase 3, a transcript from a pilot interview and notes recalled after two dialogue groups.

The above section on data collection highlights two aspects. The first is the challenge of gathering a complete set of data. Life events for both participants and the researcher interrupted the planned process. The second aspect reflects the lived experiences of teen


mothers who attend a Teen Parent Unit. Despite their intentions, or commitments to a process, things happened to them, their children, or their living conditions that affected their ability to participate in the research. For some teen mothers, I realised that taking part in this research may have felt like an imposition at times. I consider that the information in this paragraph helps describe, without judgement, something of the lived experiences of the young women who participated in my research. Their lived experiences contributed to my awareness that these represent issues of social justice such as access to education, poverty and homelessness.

Analysis of the data

The emergent characteristics of qualitative research stress that data analysis be initiated as data are collected. I have drawn upon the emergent approach (Taylor, et al., 2016) or on- going analysis of data through simultaneous review of data, identification of emerging themes, followed by coding (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007; Denzin & Lincoln, 2011; Riessman, 1993). Initially, the three techniques of narrative data analysis suggested by Riessman (1993) were applied to the study; namely attending, telling and transcribing.


I attended to the participants’ experiences by seeking to understand what their needs and strengths were as they transitioned to motherhood. This understanding was gained from the interviews and each participant’s response(s) to the request to, ‘Tell me your life story’. At times, the conversational interview stalled, an awkward silence permeated the air. I waited and gave the young woman the time to collect her thoughts, I drew on my intuitiveness whether to use minimal encouragers, i.e. a smile, or phrases such as ‘go on’ or ‘is there more’? On some occasions the use of nonverbal utterances, such as uhm, uh-huh, nodding of


the head, by either the researcher or participant served as a prompt for further dialogue at a later time.


The young women’s eagerness to tell their stories, and my desire to hear their experiences facilitated the co-construction of their narrative. This aligned with Jarret’s (1992) suggestion that when a researcher is positioned as a listener, interviews can be viewed as “conversations with a purpose” (Jarrett, 1992, p. 177). For some of the participants, it appeared that the sheer act of talking about their experiences appeared to allow them to create a ‘self’ or how they wanted to be known (Riessman, 1993).

The participants’ telling of their stories was shaped by how they recounted their experiences, but also by the interaction with me, the researcher, during the interview itself. This

contributed to what Mishler (1986, p. 59) describes as a negotiated “shared meaning” which involves reformulating questions and answers to arrive at an acceptable place of

understanding. This stage proved to be critical in the process. To make this process authentic, I needed to be ‘in the moment’ with the young women and wait, rather than always probing with follow-up questions. This waiting and letting the participants speak freely allowed them to control what they wished to share.

I was conscious of making the interviews emotionally safe for the participants. There were times when it became uncomfortable for the young mother to continue, or to include all events of her story because she feared they might be too unacceptable to share, or that I may not understand. For example, during the interview one young mother shook her head saying, “I won’t go there.” There were also times of tension during the interview when I chose not to probe further, being cautious not to tread on painful events. At times, this left an awkward


silence. These moments demonstrate the empathy of the interaction between the young mother and me (the researcher).

The following is a journal entry that described the concern I had in keeping the participants emotionally safe during the interview process.

Whew, that was an emotional roller coaster with Teina (pseudonym) today. She delved deep into her childhood and spoke of things that she hadn’t thought about in a long time, and had never discussed with anybody else. I feel privileged that she would share such details of her life with me, but also a bit concerned that this would trigger a shadow (a dark place, such as depression) making it difficult to cope afterwards. I made sure I ended the interview on a positive note. She left laughing, describing an incident that happened over the weekend. I made sure to let the teacher of the Teen Parent Unit, Kathy (pseudonym), know my concern and asked her to keep an eye on her. Kathy and I discussed the need for support services for the teen mums and if any were available.


The interviews were audio-recorded, and I transcribed them verbatim. I tried to capture how words were spoken, i.e., the inflection of the participant’s speech, which words were

enunciated, the use of slang, and the false starts. Occurrences of nonverbal utterances, such as facial expressions (eye rolling), laughter, tears, sighs, or long periods of silence were noted in brackets.

The format for data analysis

In document Becoming a ‘good mum’ : the experiences of young mothers transitioning to motherhood (Page 103-107)