‘I am a mother’: young women’s negotiation of femininity and risk in the transition to adulthood

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14 Citations (Scopus)


In studies of sexual risk behaviour among youth, the role of dominant conceptions of masculinity and femininity has received increasing attention. However, where research has sought to explore femininity, it has predominantly focused on adolescent girls. This paper departs from previous research by offering insights into how young women negotiate their femininity as they transition from adolescence to adulthood and encounter changing social contexts. Drawing on data from ethnographic enquiry, it argues that as young women transition out of school and into emerging adulthood, their options for negotiating different types of femininity become constrained, with consequences for engagement in sexual risk behaviours. This may to some extent explain why in some South African contexts older young women are more vulnerable to HIV infection than adolescent girls. The paper offer insights into future prospects for youth development programming seeking to reduce young women’s vulnerability to risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-279
Number of pages15
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2016


  • South Africa
  • Young people
  • femininity
  • risk
  • sexuality
  • youth transitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health (social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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