From Severe Stigma to Powerful Resilience: Youth Sexuality, Parenting, and the Power of Structural Support

Report: How Pregnant and Parenting Youth Experience and Combat Stigma

Despite the progress we’ve made from a time when the topic was ignored or spoken of only in hushed whispers, youth sexuality and young parenting remain murky, repressed areas of both discussion and research. Young people in general and young parents in particular find themselves highly stigmatized, deprived of the necessary resources that would allow them to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

In our paper From Severe Stigma to Powerful Resilience: Youth Sexuality, Parenting, and the Power of Structural Support, we share the results of our interviews with 14 experts in the field of resilience and support for young families. We cover everything from their personal and observed experiences of young families and the challenges they face, their understanding of stigma and the ways it is manifested and experienced, their programmatic undertakings to confront stigma and shift culture, their evaluation methods, and next steps.

The Problem: Stigma

Extensive stigma theory and our own research show that the stigma experienced by young parents and young families is perpetuated in multiple levels of culture: the media, policy, institutions, communities, and within families. All of the levels interact and reinforce each other to form a stigmatizing environment.

Internalized, this stigma impacts young parents’ feelings about other young parents and about themselves, their own families, their dreams, their goals, and their very futures. Read what young people have to say about how stigma impacts them.

The Solution: Structural Support

The young parents and their allies that we interviewed defined the solution to stigma as growing organically from the work of reproductive justice organizations and young people most impacted by stigma.

Informed by theories and lived realities of intersectionality, they focus specifically on resilience and support for young families and in engendering culture shift. Read about how their approach addresses cultural norms and redistributes resources to achieve a vision of sexual empowerment that includes young parents.

 Share What #YoungParentsKnow

Join The Sea Change Program for an interactive tweetchat on October 27, 2015 at 12:30pm PT / 3:30pm ET to talk about how young parents and their allies are transforming the culture of stigma and shame around youth sexuality. We’ll be exploring questions such as:

  • What inspires young parents to fight against stigma?
  • How can allies provide support to young parents?
  • What tools are young parents using to combat stigma?
  • How can we shift culture at all levels to help pregnant and parenting young people develop resilience?
  • What does a world without youth sexuality stigma look like? How can we get there?

Follow the conversation and share your ideas using the hashtag #YoungParentsKnow.

Share these images to help elevate the voices and experiences of young parents and their allies.

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