Young women's positive and negative perceptions of self in Northern Ireland

Siobhan McAlister, Gail Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper represents analysis of one aspect of a larger research project examining the everyday lives and experiences of young women in Northern Ireland. As an introductory exercise within focus groups, 48 young women considered and discussed the good and not so good things about being a young woman in Northern Ireland. Through these accounts many issues emerged, some in direct contrast and contradiction to one another. The area focused upon for the purpose of this paper is the body, particularly with regard to body image (self-expression versus pressure) and becoming a woman (growing up versus menarche). The aim is to illustrate that what young women cite as being potentially positive aspects of growing up or being a young woman often have negative experiences and implications attached to them. In light of the advancements made by young women in Northern Irish society, an opening of opportunities and their awareness of the persistence of gendered messages regarding their bodies, many young women are of the belief that such messages have less impact upon them today and that gender is a barrier that can be overcome. It is illustrated and argued here, however, that dominant cultural messages regarding women’s bodies are more subtle, confusing and perhaps pervasive than they ever have been. As a consequence, this has created more pressure and confusion for young women and tensions exist in terms of young women’s beliefs and their actions. In light of these research findings, this paper considers practice implications for those working with and for young women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167 - 184
Number of pages18
JournalChild Care in Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2007


  • young women
  • northern ireland
  • self
  • youth work


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