Mental Disorders Tied to Teen Parenthood

Article excerpt

Teenagers who suffer from any of a variety of mental disorders tend to experience difficulties at home, at school, and with peers. A new study identifies another worrisome area for adolescents who endure depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or other psychiatric conditions--parenthood.

"Mental health professionals treating adolescents need to be sensitized to their higher risk of pregnancy [and parenthood], while family doctors and specialists treating teenage mothers or their children need to be sensitized to the mothers' higher risk of [having a] psychiatric disorder," concludes a research team headed by psychologist Ronald C. Kessler of Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Reasons for the link between teenage parenthood and mental disorders remain unclear, however, and may vary from one psychiatric diagnosis to another, Kessler notes. For instance, substance abusers may pursue an uninhibited lifestyle in a peer group that condones promiscuity, whereas depressed youngsters may accede to the sexual demands of their first boyfriend or girlfriend.

Over the past 2 decades, small-scale investigations have linked several factors to teenage parenthood, including substance abuse, poverty, growing up in a single-parent family, and persistent aggressive or criminal behavior.

Kessler's group expanded the scope of this research by analyzing interviews conducted with 5,877 people age 15 to 54 who took part in a nationally representative household survey Interviews were conducted from 1990 to 1992. …