Social scripts and stark realities: Kenyan adolescents' abortion discourse

Ellen M H Mitchell, Carolyn Tucker Halpern, Eva Muthuuri Kamathi, Shirley Owino

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


This study explores students' narratives and discourses about adolescent pregnancy and abortion elicited via internet-based open-ended questions posed in response to a cartoon vignette. We report on content analysis of recommendations and strategies for how to manage the unplanned pregnancy of a fictional young couple and in their own personal lives. The responses of 614 young people were analysed. Strategies vary widely. They include giving birth, adoption, running away, abortion, denial, and postponement until discovery. Young people were also queried about unplanned pregnancy resolution among their peers. Discourse analysis reveals competing social scripts on abortion. Florid condemnation of abortion acts in the hypothetical cases contrasts with more frank and sober description of peers' real life abortion behaviour. Students' language is compared with that found in official curricula. The rhetorical devices, moralizing social scripts and dubious health claims about abortion in students' online narratives mirror the tenor and content of their academic curricula as well as Kenyan media presentation of the issue. The need for factual information, dispassionate dialogue and improved contraceptive access is considerable.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture, Health & Sexuality
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)515-28
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Abortion, Induced
  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Health
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Male
  • Narration
  • Peer Group
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence/ethnology
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned/ethnology
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Social Perception
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


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