"He tapu te whare tangata" : support for young Maori mothers during pregnancy, birth and motherhood : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, Massey University

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The focus of this research is to explore the experiences of six young Maori mothers as they perceive them, in particular looking at their experiences of support or lack of it during pregnancy, birth and motherhood. Research shows that extra social support improves the experience of pregnancy, delivery and early motherhood (Oakley. 1992) but also that there is a lack of support often felt at times in the lives of mothers. Little is known, in a formal sense, of young Maori mothers' experiences of support and this research aims to understand and make sense of these experiences. The study also uses an holistic Maori perspective which relates the health and wellbeing of Maori society to historical, structural and cultural factors in an attempt to explain or make links with the present experiences of young Maori mothers. Issues that affect support of Maori women including colonisation and the breakdown of whanau, hapu, iwi, are explored. The impact these factors have had on Maori women are discussed and establish a setting from which the lives of the women can be viewed. The research grew from work with young mothers in the community and aims to empower those involved and collectively negotiate theory. For this reason a qualitative approach is used in the form of in-depth, open ended interviews and hui. The main findings are that the first pregnancy was an extremely difficult time for the women and was often characterised by a lack of emotional support from partners and often family, combined with a lack of material resources and support. The study showed the special need of support for teenage mothers because of their often disadvantaged or impoverished material circumstances. It also showed that extended whanau support was often used especially after the birth of the baby, however judgemental attitudes got in the way of helping. Though informal support was preferred, community support was also helpful, especially for those who did not have a lot of assistance from whanau. The women's place in their whanau, culture and society showed the impact of a number of macro-social processes such as colonisation, assimilation and urbanisation which had resulted in the loss of Maori culture and the low socio-economic position of many of the women and their whanu. The study showed the great stress that is often placed on whanau who are often confined to a low socio-economic status and have few resources. The strength and maturity of the women, however, was a positive outcome of the hardship and difficult circumstances they experienced. The conclusions for policy and practise are that there is a necessity for information, advocacy and many kinds of support for young Maori mothers which needs to be offered in a caring and non-judgemental manner.
Maori mothers, Young Maori mothers, Young mothers, Pregnancy