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Abstract

This paper presents data on single pregnant women's encounters in public in an Irish context. Data were collected using in-depth interviews, which were analysed using a grounded theory strategy. The study was conducted in Dublin City and 51 unmarried women whose ages ranged from 16-36 participated. Findings suggested that while dominant public discourses on non-marital childbearing within the culture were negative (albeit challenged) at the time data were being collected, responses from others whom participants interacted with in verbal face-to-face encounters in public were generally (though certainly not exclusively) experienced as positive in tone. An attempt is made to explain the discrepancy between the mainly negative macro messages and mainly positive micro messages by drawing on Erving Goffman's theory of dramaturgy; it would seem that at the micro-level of interaction, a 'performance' was being acted out that may be at variance with definitions of non-marital pregnancy expressed by those beyond the encounter.

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