Application of the critical intersections model to social work with young mothers in Aotearoa New Zealand


  • Victoria Holden Registered Social Worker


young mothers, critical intersections, integration, social work


INTRODUCTION: This article examines some of the challenges faced by social workers working with young parents and explores appropriate responses to those challenges. Beddoe and Maidment’s (2009) critical intersections model is utilised to integrate academic curriculum learning with contemporary social work areas. Aspects of working with young parents are discussed in relation to cultural imperatives and critical social theory, intersecting with the therapeutic relationship, which is an essential professional practice skill. The intersection between cultural imperatives and the therapeutic relationship explores social work with young parents who identify as Māori, while the intersection between critical social theory and the therapeutic relationship explores the impact of stigma and discrimination on establishing engagement with young parents.

METHOD: The critical intersections model is applied to the anecdotal practice experience of a social work student on placement at an agency that supports young parents. A composite case study based on practice experience is used to illustrate the critical intersections.

FINDINGS: Demonstrating elements of the therapeutic relationship before receiving consent to engage with a young parent can aid in overcoming the mistrust of helping professionals caused by stigma and discrimination. Establishing a therapeutic relationship with young parents who identify as Māori requires a social worker to have a willingness to learn and respond with cultural humility.

CONCLUSION: The critical intersections model was valuable in exploring the integration of academic curriculum and contemporary social work areas in relation to social work with young parents.


Allen, E., Bonell, C., Strange, V., Copas, A., Stephenson, J., Johnson, A. M., & Oakley, A. (2007). Does the UK government’s teenage pregnancy strategy deal with the correct risk factors? Findings from a secondary analysis of data from a randomised trial of sex education and their implications for policy. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 61(1), 20–27.

Beddoe, E., & Maidment, J. (2009). Mapping knowledge for social work practice: critical intersections (1st ed.). Cengage Learning.

Bower, M. (Ed.). (2005). Psychoanalytic theory for social work practice: Thinking under fire. Routledge.

Conn, B. M., de Figueiredo, S., Sherer, S., Mankerian, M. & Iverson, E. (2018). “Our lives aren’t over”: A strengths- based perspective on stigma, discrimination and coping among young parents. Journal of Adolescence, 66, 91– 100. 10.1016/j.adolescence.2018.05.005

Fanslow, J. L., Robinson, E. M., Crengle, S., & Perese, L. (2007). Prevalence of child sexual abuse reported by a cross-sectional sample of New Zealand women. Child Abuse and Neglect, 31(9), 935–945. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.02.009

Ferguson, H., Warwick, L., Disney, T., Leigh, J., Cooner, T. S., & Beddoe, L. (2020). Relationship-based practice and the creation of therapeutic change in long-term work: social work as a holding relationship. Social Work Education, 41(2), 209-227. 479.2020.1837105

Flett, J. A. M., Lucas, N., Kingstone, S., & Stevenson, B. (2020). Mental distress and discrimination in Aotearoa New Zealand: Results from 2015-2018 Mental Health Monitor and 2018 Health and Lifestyle Survey. Te Hiringa Hauora/Health Promotion Agency. 20and%20discrimination%20in%20Aotearoa%20 New%20Zealand%20-%20report.pdf

Fonda, M., Eni, R., & Guimond, E. (2013). Socially constructed teen motherhood: A review. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 4(1), 8. https://doi. org/10.18584/iipj.2013.4.1.8

Gordon, D. M., Campbell, C., Washington, K., Albritton, T., Divney, A., Magriples, U., & Kershaw, T. (2016). The influence of general discrimination and social context on young urban expecting couples’ mental health. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25, 1284–1294.

Greyson, D., Chabot, C., & Shoveller, J. A. (2019). Young parents’ experiences and perceptions of ‘Teen Mom’ reality shows. Journal of Youth Studies, 22(8), 1150– 1165.

Harms, L., & Connolly, M. (2019). Social work: From theory to practice. Cambridge.

Jenkins, K., & Harte, H. M. (2011). Traditional Māori parenting: An historical review of literature of traditional Māori child rearing practices in pre-European times. Te Kahui Mana Ririki.āori -parenting-an-historical-review-of-literature-of-traditional-Māori-child-rearing-practices-in-pre-european-times/

Keddell, E., Cleaver, K., & Fitzmaurice, L. (2022). Experiences of baby removal prevention: A collective case study of mothers and community-based workers. Qualitative Social Work, 14733250211058178.

Kerslake Hendricks, A., & Stevens, K. (2012). Safety of subsequent children: International literature review. Families Commission. assets/Uploads/SoSC-literature-review.pdf

L’Engle, K. L., Brown, J. D., & Kenneavy, K. (2006). The mass media are an important context for adolescents’ sexual behaviour. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38(3), 186–192. jadohealth.2005.03.020

Loto, O. M., Ezechi, O. C., Kalu, B. K. E., Loto, A. B., Ezechi, L. O., & Ogunniyi, S. O. (2009). Poor obstetric performance of teenagers: is it age- or quality of care- related? Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 24(4), 395–398. 529

Maidment, J., & Egan, R. (2016). Practice skills in social work and welfare: More than just common sense (3rd ed.). Allen & Unwin.

Marie, D., Fergusson, D. M., & Boden, J. M. (2011). Cultural identity and pregnancy/ parenthood by age 20: Evidence from a New Zealand birth cohort. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 37.

McArthur, M., & Winkworth, G. (2018). Give them a break: How stigma impacts on younger mothers accessing early and supportive help in Australia. British Journal of Social Work, 48(5), 1277–1295. bjsw/bcx075

Mills, A., Schmeid, V., Taylor, C., Dahlen, H., Shuiringa, W., & Hudson, M. E. (2013). Someone to talk to: young mothers’ experiences of participating in a young parents support programme. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 27, 551–559. 672.2012.01065.x

Ministry of Health. (2019). Report on Maternity 2017. www. report-maternity-2017-may19.pdf

Pihama, L. (2010). Kaupapa Māori theory: Transforming theory in Aotearoa. He Pukenga Kōrero, 9(2), 5–14. article/viewFile/2/pdf

Ruch, G., Turney, D., & Ward, A. (2018). Relationship-based social work: Getting to the heart of practice (2nd ed.). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Scanlen, A., & Hooper, C. (2019). Expanded teen parents evidence brief. Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children/ Allen and Clarke. assets/Uploads/About-us/Research/Latest-research/ Teen-Parents-Evidence-Brief/Teen-Parents-Evidence- Brief-2019.pdf

Shreffler, K. M., Tiemeyer, S., Giano, Z., Gallus, K. L., Cox Jr., R. B. & Merten, M. J. (2020). Trauma and early adolescent perceptions about sex and parenthood: The mediating role of anger regulation. Youth & Society, 52(8), 1414–1435.

Smith, C. (1996). The link between childhood maltreatment and teenage pregnancy. Social Work Research, 20(3), 131–141.

SmithBattle, L., Loman, D. G., Chantamit-o-pas, C., & Schneider, J. K. (2017). An umbrella review of meta- analyses of interventions to improve maternal outcomes for teen mothers. Journal of Adolescence, 59, 97–111.

Statistics New Zealand. (2019). Parenting and fertility trends in New Zealand 2018. reports/parenting-and-fertility-trends-in-new-zealand- 2018#summary

Sudbery, J. (2002). Key features of therapeutic social work: the use of relationship. Journal of Social Work Practice, 16(2), 149–162. https://doi. org/10.1080/026505302200003371

Taylor, W. (2017, September 30). Mindset matters: Positive parenting. Social Work Helper. https://swhelper. org/2017/09/30/mindset-matters-positive-parenting/

Tervalon, M., & Murray-Garcia, J. (1998). Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 9, 117–125.

Thompson, N. (2012). Anti-discriminatory practice: Equality, diversity and social justice (5th ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

Tynjälä, P., Virtanen, A., Klemola, U., Kostiainen, E., & Rasku-Puttonen, H. (2016). Developing social competence and other generic skills in teacher education: Applying the model of integrative pedagogy. European Journal of Teacher Education, 39(3), 368– 387.

Ungar, M., Hadfield, K., & Ikeda, J. (2018). Adolescents’ experiences of therapeutic relationships at high and

low levels of risk and resilience. Journal of Social Work Practice, 32(3), 277–292. 33.2017.1384999

Ware, F. J. R. (2014). Whanau kopepe: a culturally appropriate and family focused approach to support for young Māori (indigenous) parents. Journal of Indigenous Social Development, 3(2), 1-20. 08ware.pdf

Ware, F. J. R., Beheny, M., & Forster, M. (2018). Mana ma ̄tua: Being young parents. MAI Journal (Online), 7(1), 18–30.

World Health Organisation. (2020, January 31). Adolescent pregnancy.




How to Cite

Holden, V. (2024). Application of the critical intersections model to social work with young mothers in Aotearoa New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 36(1), 127–136. Retrieved from



Original Articles