Welfare reform succeeded, in part, because of discourse that characterized the poverty problem as one of long-term dependency and personal irresponsibility. Adolescent pregnancy was targeted as both cause and manifestation of a welfare crisis. This study examined how welfare reform was perceived and experienced by lowincome, urban adolescents. Findings from interviews revealed that adolescents agreed with many of the basic tenets of welfare reform, largely because they had appropriated much of the discourse prevalent in wider society. However, their complex life stories contained a powerful subtext concerning structural determinants of poverty that ran counter to prevailing notions of "personal responsibility."