I should write this first paragraph as a disclaimer! Before you read on, please remember these are thoughts I have about why other people react as they do when they see a very young mother. They are my thoughts about what other people seem to think! If you know me then you know I don't judge, and that I try to take each of you as you are, and respect you, your circumstances and your life. O.K.? Good! Now you can read what I have been thinking!
I admit that when it was first brought to my attention about how many older people react when they see a young mother, it mystified me. All I could think was "why would an older person frown upon a young mother?" So the thinking cap went on, as usual, and after literally months of pondering on the subject I came to some conclusions.
The first thing I can think of is the attitude of many people toward those whom they "believe" are on some sort of government assistance. I don't know about U.K. or USA etc., but Aussies have an expression "dole bludger" which is used to refer to someone who doesn't work, but relies entirely on "the dole" - which is unemployment benefit. The expression really tends to sum up the attitude toward people who are seen as not wanting to work, and who are happy to just get by on some sort of benefit, whether it be unemployment or "supporting mothers" or any other "handout".
So, with this attitude firmly ingrained in them, there will be many who will take one look at a young mum and automatically assume that she must be 1) unmarried 2) living on benefits 3) unable to financially support a child, and 4) a single mother. In other words they instantly make a judgement call. If the mum meets any of the criteria, she must be, quite simply, a "bad" person. After all, this is a young mum, and she "got pregnant" didn't she?
My second belief about scornful attitudes towards young mothers is that there are many older people who were raised with rigid attitudes towards sex. Obviously, if you are young and have a baby, you must have been having sex! And if you appear to be very young (as many do!) then it is just totally disgusting that you have been bouncing around naked with your boyfriend. To make it even worse, you obviously didn't use birth control! They make another judgement call. Are you with me so far? Rigidity of attitudes, upbringing, and beliefs up to this point, o.k.?
Thought number three is that the majority of older folk (women in particular), will firmly believe that if you are young then you are not capable of caring properly for a child - after all, you are not long out of childhood yourself, so how can you possibly act responsibly toward a baby, or babies? It is all so very judgmental, isn't it?
Next thought, number four, is that all young people, without exception, are not only irresponsible, but also quite brainless, and without doubt most are lazy and careless as well. This may come from their own experience with their own children, and if so then who was the parent to those children? They make a judgement based on their own poor parenting skills, methinks.
Me? My belief and often my worry, is that girls who have babies in their early or even mid-teens must, of necessity, miss out on so much of their youth through having a family to care for. That just seems a shame to me! At the same time, I seem to be seeing a swing towards women having their families much younger - which in many ways, such as mother's health during pregnancy, is probably for the better. Not too many years ago, probably after the "women's liberation" era, women were delaying having their babies until they were much older.
As a final note, something that intrigues me is that we don't hear much about people's attitudes toward young fathers? After all, they must have been there at the time of conception, surely? The only judgement I have made was toward a young father! If I hadn't been ill at the time he would have received an earful from me - he was blowing cigarette smoke into his tiny tiny daughter's face, and saying (full of bravado for his mates) "you wanna smoke? eh? you wanna smoke?" - my judgement was "YOU STUPID STUPID BOY"..... My daughter remarked to me, when I told her of the incident, "Mum you should have had a quiet word with the baby's mother!"..............