Families, Relationships and Societies
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From being ‘at risk’ to being ‘a risk’: journeys into parenthood among young women experiencing adversity

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When young women who have grown up in contact with child protection become mothers, they shift from being regarded as a child ‘at risk’ by the child protection system, to posing ‘a risk’ to their baby. In contrast to their peers, young care leavers transition to adulthood with very few resources and little support; they typically continue to experience the economic and related adversities of their childhoods. This article draws on biographical narrative interviews with young Australian mothers to understand how they navigate child protection as new mothers. We argue that, while inequalities endure, new understandings of the system can be acquired and dispositions can adapt to function more effectively in the field of child protection. We draw on Bourdieu’s notions of capital, habitus and field to analyse young mothers' adaptations, with additional insights from Hester’s analogy of separate planets to explore their experiences of the field of child protection.

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