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Qualitative Research and the Evidence Base of Policy: Insights from Studies of Teenage Mothers in the UK

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 December 2005

Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York 40105DD email:; phone 01904-321349; fax 01904-321382
Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University, Alexandra Square, Lancaster, LA1 4YT


Qualitative research is ambiguously placed as a source of evidence for policy. It provides a way of accessing the experiences and perspectives of those targeted by welfare interventions, yet it is routinely excluded from the evidence reviews undertaken to inform these interventions. The article explores what qualitative research – mapped and synthesised through a systematic review – can contribute to evidence and policy. Taking teenage motherhood as a case study, it juxtaposes the conclusions of quantitative reviews with themes emerging from a systematic review of qualitative studies of teenage mothers’ lives. It highlights how teenage motherhood, identified in quantitative reviews and in policy interventions as a route to social exclusion, emerges in these studies as an act of social inclusion. It highlights, too, how social disapproval as well as material hardship weigh on teenage mothers, and the potential role that policies could play in supporting the identities and resilient practices mothers develop in the face of material and social disadvantage.

© 2005 Cambridge University Press

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