Antenatal education for adolescents : a qualitative study from a Foucauldian perspective : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
The purpose of this research has been to explore the arguments around whether antenatal education (ANE) programmes dedicated to adolescents are beneficial. Epidemiological research presents pregnancy during the adolescent years as problematic and positions the pregnant adolescent and her baby at risk for ongoing negative health and social outcomes. In an attempt to increase the uptake of ANE by pregnant adolescents and their partners and therefore improve these outcomes, ANE programmes dedicated specifically to adolescents have been established. Using Foucault's concepts of power, the medical 'gaze', surveillance, and governmentality, a qualitative methodology positioned within a critical paradigm has been utilised to challenge some of the taken for granted assumptions around the delivery of a dedicated adolescent ANE programme. These concepts also enabled antenatal education to be examined from an alternative theoretical perspective and provide an alternative view of antenatal education as a bio-political and disciplinary power that is capable of constructing the individual. One health practitioner, nine female and four male adolescents participated in semi-structured interviews, either individually or as a group, to discuss their views and experience of the ANE programme. Thematic analysis was used to create topic groups that were integrated into themes. The two following overarching themes were identified: bio-politics: how the population of pregnant adolescents are managed and subjected to extra surveillance and intervention; and anatamo-politics: where the health education that the participants received constructed a representation of a normal or ideal birth experience and feeding choice. This thesis argues that an adolescent ANE programme reinforces an identity of difference from other expectant parents and can be a manifestation of the 'gaze', subjecting the adolescents to 'surveillance', which results in increased intervention. It explores some of the strategies used to facilitate the management of this population; identifies some of the techniques that are used in health education to instill self-discipline and gain compliance; and identifies how the disciplinary power of health education is sometimes resisted by the participants.