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Durham University

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A Week in Your Life: Exploring the Everyday Lives of Teenage Mothers

A research project of the Department of Sociology.


Research has demonstrated that teenage mothers are at increased risk of engaging in cancer-causing behaviours such as smoking, poor diet and lack of physical activity. In order to develop and implement successful interventions aimed at changing these behaviours, we must first understand the barriers and facilitators to change from the perspective of the specific population, in this case teenage mothers. 


Using novel qualitative methods (a combination of photo elicitation and focus groups), we will establish an evidence base to develop an intervention targeting cancer preventive behaviours in teenage mothers. Using three varied geographical locations, we will use photographs, produced by teenage mothers, as a tool to illicit discussion through focus groups. Data generated in these focus groups will inform the development of the intervention.


We will recruit up to 60 teenage mothers in three locations in the UK (Belfast, Bristol and Middlesbrough). Twenty participants will be recruited in each area and there will be no lower age limit. Participants will be recruited through Sure Start Children’s Centres, which are locally-run organisations offering free services to parents and carers of children.

Participants will be provided with a disposable camera and requested to take photos over a week of key times in their day, typical activities or spaces, or of anything else that they feel portrays their everyday life. This photo elicitation will then be followed by the first round of focus groups where the processed photographs will be used as a tool to initiate discussion.

 These focus groups will be conducted with up to seven participants. Focus group leaders will direct discussion around facilitators and barriers to cancer preventative behaviours, guided by the photographs. Thematic analysis of the focus group transcripts will provide a provisional framework for an intervention to increase cancer preventing behaviours.

A second round of focus groups will then be held with the same participants, to relay findings and ensure that the issues identified in the transcripts are relevant and the preliminary intervention pathway suitable. Analysis of both focus groups will be combined, and a final framework for an intervention to increase cancer preventative behaviours in teenage mothers will be developed. 


The research has been presented at a number of internal, local events across Durham, Belfast and Bristol Universities.

Following data collection, we intend to develop at least two journal articles;

One will focus on the everyday lives of teenage mothers and will be submitted to a social science journal.

The other will focus on cancer prevention beliefs and behaviours and will be submitted to the Journal of Cancer Prevention. 


From the Department of Sociology

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