Dr Ciara Bradley has been examining the incidence of teen pregnancy

A Maynooth University lecturer says teenage mothers in Ireland are still face inequalities and stigma.

Dr Ciara Bradley is highlighting issues facing teen mums as today marks Mother's Day.

"While Irish society has seen huge amounts of progress in in recent years, teenage mums still face stigma and discrimination," Dr Bradley said.

The lecturer in Applied Social Science has been examining the incidence of teen pregnancy in Ireland - both historically and in recent years - as well as the social attitudes that shape how teen mothers are viewed.

She's concluded that - despite advances in social security policies, legislation and information around contraception and abortion - Ireland is still "a patriarchal society that disadvantages teenage mothers".

File photo

Dr Bradley explained: "Research in this area highlights that there are many misconceptions about teenage motherhood.

"For example that incidences are increasing or that young mothers often become pregnant to access social welfare benefits and subsidised housing, despite there being little evidence to support these claims.

"The issue is not the early life pregnancy.

"Rather, the gendered and class-based inequalities associated with both the incidence and the outcomes of teenage parenthood are the real issues."

Dr Ciara Bradley | Image: maynoothuniversity.ie

Teen fertility rates in Ireland have increased from the 1960s to a peak in 1980 - only to decline until 1995, and increase again until 2000.

During this period, the Irish teenage fertility rate was higher than that the EU average, but still well below the rates experienced in the UK, New Zealand and the USA.

In 2000, 93% of Irish teenage births were to 'unmarried' mothers, which represented the highest level in all European countries at the time. 

"This shows a stark change in a society in which young women would have previously been married off in the case of an unplanned pregnancy", Dr Bradley added.

Births to teenage mothers have steadily declined in Ireland since then.

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), numbers have fallen by 62% in the period 2001-2015.

"As rates of teenage pregnancies in Ireland have changed, so have Irish attitudes to gender and sexuality evolved."