Social support and resilience among teenage mothers in Uganda
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Background: Despite the various attempts to eliminate teenage pregnancies in the world, teenage motherhood increasingly remains a serious public health and social concern. Teenage mothers encounter a number of constraints ranging from health related constraints, psychological to socio-economic difficulties which lower their self-esteem and force them to give up on their life goals. However, some teenage mothers exhibit resilience by overcoming and managing these challenges. Social support, defined as any form of assistance (emotional, instrumental and informational) that is derived from the individual’s social relationships, is critical in promoting resilience. However the mechanisms through which social support enables teenage mothers to overcome the constraints they face remains understudied. This study provides insights into mechanisms through which social support enables teenage mothers to deal with the physical health, psychological and socio-economic constraints they face in life. Methodology: These findings draw on a qualitative explanatory cross-sectional study of 16 teenage mothers. Nine were involved in in-depth interviews and seven in a focus group discussion. Participants were purposively selected on the basis of socio-demographic characteristics such as age, marital status, education and religion. Four key informants were interviewed and these were conveniently and purposively selected based on their availability and knowledge about the topic of study. Findings: The study found that teenage mothers face various constraints which can be categorized into physical health, psychological and socio-economic constraints. These include fear to disclose the pregnancy, stigma, guilt and regret, dropping out of school, neglect by partners, pre-mature birth and caesarean section. The study revealed that social support enables teenage mothers to deal with the identified constraints in 3 ways. 1) Facilitates access to financial and maternal resources; 2) helps teenage mothers to engage in employment and trade activities; 3) helps teenage mothers to deal with anxiety and stigma from community members. The primary sources of support identified included parents, other relatives especially aunties and sisters, friends, the fathers of their children and institutions with the communities. Conclusion: Social support is a critical resource in promoting the resilience of teenage mothers. Family (parents, siblings and other relatives) are the primary source of support for teenage mothers. Therefore, there is need to empower the family to support teenage mothers during difficult times.