Kinship capital: young mothers, kinship networks and support in urban South Africa

Nirvana Pillay - Social Dynamics


In this paper, I explore kinship and other networks of support for young mothers and their babies after an unintended, ex-nuptial pregnancy in a resource-poor urban setting. I draw on in-depth interviews conducted with 30 young mothers aged 18 to 20 years old and follow up interviews conducted with 9 of them. The interviews focused on three main areas: pregnancy and birth, education and income generation, and support networks. I present three cases that reflect variability in support and kinship network patterns. I use genograms and kinship network maps to identify sources of support and kinship networks within and outside households. Paying attention to the location and distribution of networks, I engage with the role of kinship capital and other forms of support in mitigating some of the negative consequences of early, unplanned motherhood. I show how young mothers draw on support from kinship networks which in turn adapt and reconfigure to provide support, allowing young mothers to exercise agency in relation to aspirations around educational attainment and income generation.