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.
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