Framing

"young women who did not live in a maternity residence during some portion of their pregnancy had a predicted probabiliity of placing that was less than half of that of women who did live in such residences."  (p. 209) From: Namerow, P., Kalmuss, D., & Cushman, L.  (1993).  The determinants of young women's pregnancy-resolution choices. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 3(2), 193-215.

Framing is a  term used in media studies, sociology and psychology. It is the process of influencing a group or individual's perception of the meanings attributed to words or phrases. A frame defines the packaging of an element in such a way as to encourage certain interpretations and to discourage others. Think of it like a picture frame. It surrounds what you see and how you see a picture. It influences your view of the picture beyond.

For example, lets consider the "home for unwed mothers".

Why is it necessary to add the adjective of "unwed" to mothers? What difference does it make if the mothers are wed or unwed?

The difference is that for many in American society, particularly the very religious, unwed and mother are terms that should not be used in the same sentence. They are bad. They induce a feeling of digust and horror.

The term unwed mother is translated in the minds of many into "single dirty slut girl" or worse.  By adding the qualifier of "unwed" to "mother" one is influencing anothers thoughts on that mother. They are suggesting there is something wrong with the mother. She is bad, or wrong, or slutty or deranged and alas, certainly not qualified to be a mother. Sooo, lets take that baby and give it to a nice clean wedded woman who cannot have her own baby.

How about that for framing?

Why dont we refer to those "homes" as "homes for expectant mothers"? Or how about "homes for mothers".  Perhaps I am biased (because I lived in one of those lovely "homes") but I feel removing the "unwed" implies a more helpful environment geared towards keeping mother and child together. 

Remove the bias.

Remove the frame.

Gives these mothers and children a chance.

Those who gift their bodily organs to save the life of others are called organ donors. Why dont we call those that surrender their children to adoption to women who cannot have their own children as baby donors?  Ooh, that sounds ugly, right? We dont want adoption to sound ugly. It must sound lovely. We must give it a nice gilded frame.

If it is a home that is going to help a mother make an educated, informed, decision in the best interest of HER and HER CHILD, can we call it a "Home for Mothers". 

My vote is yes.

10 Thoughts.

  1. “a home that is going to help a mother make an educated, informed, decision in the best interest of HER and HER CHILD”
    What a concept!
    I will always be an “unwed mother” and it has framed, and limited, my choices in life. For example, “unwed mother” would never run for political office. Or pursue a carreer with children (I couldn’t). Or how about finding a man who would accept “unwed mother”? Many could not, and it caused me a great deal of pain to learn that lesson.
    I am sure I can think of other examples.

  2. I think “Home for Expectant Mothers and Their Babies” would be best, with mothers allowed to stay with their babies there for 6 months to a year after the birth, if they need to, with concrete help to get their lives together.
    That would really be providing a service for pregnant women with no place to go, not just a conduit to adoption. Yes, a few mothers would still choose to surrender because of their personal circumstances or issues, but it would be a real informed choice, not something they were pressured into whether it was best or not.

  3. My vote is YES, too.
    In my opinion, homes for mothers should never be connected to, receive funding from, or provide infants for adoption agencies, either. I honestly don’t believe a woman can make a truly informed, unpressured decision if the home also operates and adoption program.
    I hope we get there in our lifetimes.

  4. Me too Margie.
    I hope nobody takes this the wrong way but I think it is almost funny that I was once an “UNWED MOTHER!”
    To me it just seems another part of that other person who wasn’t me they were trying to tell me I was. If you follow me.
    UM

  5. UM – Dare I suggest the Unwed Mother was the dehumanized version of you? YOU as a person were never truly seen at all.

  6. The word “Home” does not seem appropriate at all. Margie made good points.
    Who will help an UNWED Mom for 9 months and perhaps 6 mo. thereafter in helping decision making options to keep her child. Not the “home” that houses her only to get that adoption control.
    As you walk thru the doorway, fearful, broke, alone full of sadness and shame this home is your salvation and these social workers are your angels. Then one of them walks up to you and puts their arms around you thats the comfort you live with for the 9 months. You are now owned, controlled and indebted. Sound familiar?

  7. The only reason for these HOMES, whatever name you call them, was that unwed pregnant woman had to be sent away. Remove that, I say. It would have been better, in whatever era, if we had been allowed to stay where we were — with our families, or with friends, in our apartments, or whatever — without the stigma and intrusion of adoption brokers. With the support of family and friends, we might never have lost our children. I did not go to one of those places. I lived in a private home, set up by a private adoption attorney, but the intention was the same. I was just waiting out my time, to finish my pregnancy, deliver, and give up my child for one his clients. Looking back, there was no coercion, just that expectation that that was what I was there for. No opening or support for any other option.
    I agree, without “homes” or other unnatural placement or conditions, we might have had a shot at avoiding this horrendous loss.

  8. The day there truly are homes for mothers and children, with no expectation, prejudice, or pressure toward adoption will be a wonderful, wonderful day.
    Sometimes I despair, but hope springs eternal.
    In my old age, I dream of having a small working farm and a rambling house, which I will use to take in young moms and really support them. It is just a dream right now, but perhaps one day…

  9. My mom had unprotected sex at age 15. She hid her pregnancy all 9 months in fear of being sent away.She was scared and I feel this to my core. She was 16 when she had me(April 1974). She had five sisters(one special needs sister) and four brothers. Her father was dying of cancer. She says her reason for relinquishing me was she wanted me to have a father. Her family was/is Roman Catholic. My “catholic clean wedded adopted mother and father” couldn’t have their first choice of having their own children so they act like they decided to help a poor young unwed mother out. And my mother tells herself she did an unselfish deed for some unfortunate people unable to have children. Well…when anything went wrong in my adopted family it was usually genetics to blame. Adoption was the solution for my mom and her huge family. She choose them over me. They had a full family fighting cancer, dealing with special needs, and they couldn’t have anymore. I learned after my reunion… my mom got married had three more children and divorced. I met her in 1992 after she was divorced. She remarried in 1993 to a man with two step children. She didn’t have time for me. I was in the picture and out of the picture. After I had my four kids…she had them call her grandma. In 2005 her son died of brain cancer at the age of 24. Now me/we are nothing to her again. How is that for framing? Adoption sucks the very life out of people. I’ve heard worse adoption stories and most are better left unsolved.I think most young girls are afraid to leave what is familiar to them about family. She had a choice in 1974 and picked life without me then used me for a short time and dumped me/”now us” again.
    A home for mother and child(s) is a the right term over “unwed mothers home.”

  10. I was concieved from rape. My mother did choose to go to a home for unwed mothers (popular in 60’s/70’s). She put me up for adoption. I was adopted at birth and had a wonderful childhood and located my birthmother and ALL of her family 20yrs ago. My mother has told me her story and her experience in the home. She is thankful and so am I. The term “home for unwed mothers”, is dated and should be changed but like any buisness or blog out there…there are great ones and those that were not thought out. I always felt the “homes” were a way to provide another alternative to abortion. That is how my mother felt. She was ashamed and alone and didnt want to abort. If she had not found the home to “hide” while she was pregnant, she most likely would have aborted.

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