“Doing It Right”: Childbearing Norms among Low-Income Women over the Life Course

Laurie James-Hawkins, University of Colorado at Boulder
Christie Sennott, University of Colorado at Boulder

Age norms regarding both teenage childbearing and reproductive sterilization have been extensively studied. Yet, no work has examined the ways in which these reproductive norms are connected over the reproductive life course and the extent to which norms surrounding the timing of these events may disproportionately disadvantage low-income women. Drawing on qualitative data from 40 interviews conducted with low-income women in the Denver Metro area of Colorado, we investigate how early childbearing and early desire for sterilization are connected and how they relate to the accelerated reproductive life course typical of low-income women. Although half the women in the sample were teen mothers the dominant view of teen childbearing was overwhelmingly negative. Despite, or perhaps because of their experiences, women interviewed both expressed adherence to dominant norms which dictate postponing until after reaching ones 20s, and discussed ways in which they perpetuate these norms with their peers and children.

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Presented in Poster Session 1