Unmarried young mothers in South-Eastern Nigeria: attitudes and experiences

  • George Okechukwu Amakor

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In Christian communities such as those found in South-Eastern Nigeria, conservative interpretations of the Bible frown upon any form of premarital sexual activity; unmarried young women are expected to remain virgins until they get married. In such religious communities, biblical injunctions and sociocultural norms affect how pregnancy and child bearing outside of marriage is understood. Sexual issues are scarcely discussed in the open, except to reiterate messages of abstinence. Despite these warnings and coded messages aimed at regulating sex and discouraging sex related discussions, religious
societies are not exempt from the high and increasing rates of premarital sex and pregnancy amongst young people.

This thesis deploys a poststructuralist feminist approach to examine the dominant discourses surrounding the management of unmarried motherhood in Nigeria. It looks at the range of attitudes from family and church members towards early unmarried pregnancy. Using semi-structured, in-depth one-to-one and focus group interviews, this thesis examines the experiences of young unmarried mothers themselves, as well as the actions and attitudes of the church clergy and laity. Drawing inferences from thematically analysed data, this thesis upholds that unmarried young mothers are a highly stigmatised group, with negativity emerging from the family, church and other key social institutions. It also posits that although families and other agents of socialisation fail to provide young women with adequate sex education and contraception, young women, and in some cases their mothers, are the ones primarily blamed and punished for premarital pregnancy, even in instances of rape.
Date of Award13 Mar 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSarah-Jane Page (Supervisor) & Pam Lowe (Supervisor)


  • sex
  • contraception
  • premarital pregnancy
  • religion
  • stigma

Cite this