Disorganized Attachment Relationships in Infants of Adolescent Mothers and Factors That May Augment Positive Outcomes

By Long, Melissa Slomski | Adolescence, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Disorganized Attachment Relationships in Infants of Adolescent Mothers and Factors That May Augment Positive Outcomes


Long, Melissa Slomski, Adolescence


INTRODUCTION

Knowledge in the field of human development is rapidly changing as more research is cultivated and new theories are generated (Lerner, 2002). Because new knowledge is continually being advanced, it is imperative for psychologists to realize that information considered to be accurate is changeable (Lerner, 2002). According to Madigan, Moran, and Pederson (2006), little information has been collected on the attachment of infants with adolescent mothers.

Progressively more and more women in the United States and Europe postpone childbearing until their later years (Hamilton, Ventura, Martin, & Sutton, 2005). Although many women delay giving birth, the United States continues to have the highest percentage of teen births, ages 15 to 19, in comparison to other developed countries (Hamilton, Ventura, Martin, & Sutton, 2005; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000). Further research is necessary in order to enhance outcomes of children born to adolescent mothers.

Parenting in Adolescence

Many challenges exist for adolescent females and their children due to the age and developmental period of the mothers (Easterbrooks, Chaudhuri, & Gestdottir, 2005). It is essential to consider the intelligence, adjustment, and cognitive ability of young mothers when predicting early parenting practices and future child outcomes (Whitman, Borkowski, Keogh, & Weed, 2001). These three factors are sound predictors when considering appropriate infant development and success of the child. According to Bornstein and Putnick (2007), the psychosocial effects of mothers bearing children in adolescence are well established. Younger mothers are less knowledgeable about parenting as well as the developmental milestones of children; they are also less confident in their parenting abilities and express less desirable childrearing attitudes compared to older mothers (Bornstein & Putnick, 2007). Adolescent mothers have more limited educational and employment skills, lack financial resources, endure high stress, and encounter more family discord compared to mature mothers (Letourneau, Stewart, & Barnfather, 2004).

Adverse psychological, social, and health consequences have been associated with adolescent pregnancy and parenting such as pregnancy-induced hypertension, and preterm labor and delivery (Sieger & Renk, 2007). Since adolescent mothers face more risk factors, it is more difficult for them to engage in a mature, sensitive, and emotionally available manner with their children (Easterbrooks, Chaudhuri, & Gestdottir, 2005). All of these issues can affect outcomes of the infants of adolescent mothers.

Emotional availability in parenting is linked with the development of self-regulation in infants. According to Cole, Martin, and Dennis (2004), emotional regulation is imperative for infants to acquire; it dictates how and why emotions manage or facilitate other psychological processes, including engaging in relationships, focusing attention, and problem solving. The ability of the infant to manage his or her emotions in different situations is a developmental task of early childhood.

Birkeland, Thompson, and Phares (2005) have noted that the first year postpartum is a challenging period for adolescent mothers, as they cope with distinctive personal and social changes. Adolescent girls, regardless of whether they are pregnant and/or parenting, most often are sensitive about their body image and physical characteristics and are susceptible to the thin-ideal espoused in Western cultures. To study body images of pregnant and parenting adolescent females, Birkeland, Thompson, and Phares (2005) assessed the attitudes and feelings of young mothers in seven teen-parent programs in the greater Tampa Bay and St. Paul-Minneapolis areas. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), Parenting Stress Index-Third Edition, and Eating Disorder Inventory: Body Dissatisfaction and Drive for Thinness subscales were utilized to examine the relation among depression, role restriction, social isolation, maternal self-efficacy, and weight/ shape disturbance in young mothers. …

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