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Experiences of Professional Intervention in Pregnancy and Parenthood

Co-production with Young Parents in a Deprived North Yorkshire Coastal Town

Researchers: Dr. Aniela Wenham, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, School for Business and Society, University of York
Co-investigators: Dr. Emma Geddes, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, School of Health, Leeds Beckett University
Funder: University of York’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) 
Duration: March 2022 - March 2023   


Large seaside towns in the UK have been found to experience high rates of deprivation alongside complex social issues such as unemployment, substance misuse and health inequalities. A high prevalence of teenage parenthood has been found to exist alongside high rates of non-consensual social work intervention in children’s lives. 


Using arts-based participatory methods, we aimed to investigate the relationship between growing up and living in a deprived coastal town in the North of England, teenage pregnancy and young parents’ experiences of professional intervention in respect of their children. We hoped to build relationships between professionals involved in strategic planning and providing services for young parents, supporting increased opportunities for interdisciplinary working and laying a foundation for further research in this area. 


We spoke with 15 local professionals, exploring practitioner’s ideas about the needs and challenges faced by young parents and the efficacy of services in addressing these. Using arts-based methods, we held a series of participatory workshops and 17 young mums and dads shared their experiences with us via individual semi-structured interviews. With a group of young parents, we co-produced an animation titled “Becoming and being a young parent. This was showcased at an exhibition which was attended by local policymakers and health and social care professionals.  


Young parents told us about the challenges of living and parenting in a deprived coastal town in 2022-3 during the cost-of-living crisis, in a context of dramatic cuts to services intended to support young people. Professionals were also very concerned about the gaps in current service provision. The fear of social services becoming involved in the lives of their children was found to have led to high levels of stress and anxiety for young parents, particularly during pregnancy, and mums and dads told us about their determination to prove themselves to be good mothers and fathers despite the negative and stigmatising reactions they had been subjected to. Young parents spoke about painful experiences of being subject to stigmatisation and discrimination relating to their age, both within the local community and in interactions with health and social care staff. As well as the many challenges of being a young parent in the current context, young mums and dads told us that their lives had been enriched by becoming parents and spoke about the many positive features of having their children early in life.

Policy and Practice Implications

The project is informing the development of policy and practice at the local level, increasing knowledge and understanding of the geographical inequalities surrounding high rates of teenage pregnancy and child welfare interventions within costal towns. The outputs of the project are being used to influence and promote good working practice between agencies, facilitating the development of a young parents’ advisory group and strengthening relationships with key stakeholders, allowing for opportunities for future collaboration and development of research in this area. 

Please contact Dr. Aniela Wenham for further information.

Additional Materials