Growing Up Fast: Transitions to Early Adulthood of Inner-City Adolescent Mothers

Growing Up Fast: Transitions to Early Adulthood of Inner-City Adolescent Mothers

Growing Up Fast: Transitions to Early Adulthood of Inner-City Adolescent Mothers

Growing Up Fast: Transitions to Early Adulthood of Inner-City Adolescent Mothers

Synopsis

In this book the authors examine in depth the lives of inner-city adolescent mothers, going beyond stereotypes to illuminate the diverse pathways to young adulthood taken by these young women. The different ways they respond to becoming a parent reflect a range of abilities, aspirations, and supports. Their often-creative solutions to living in poverty, the intensity of their desires to make their children's lives better, the height of their youthful ambition when they succeed, and the depth of their pain when they fail, all show a surprising range. The authors argue that adolescent mothers who enter young adulthood with the skills and desires to care for themselves and their children are not the resilient few and present a lengthy analysis of the multidimensional processes that lead to and characterize this resilience. In making constructive suggestions for social welfare policies and reforms, this book serves as an ideal model of the important uses of qualitative research for understanding the adolescent experience. More than that, the book stands out among others by this social policy perspective and its focus on encouraging adolescent mothers to reach their potentials. This volume aims to attract those who wish to learn more about the adolescent experience without getting lost in the detail of the methods and analyses. To this end, the main body of the text presents general methods and results. Scholarly details of the work are placed in appendices to which the interested reader can refer. A second highlight is the inclusion of impressionistic material, such as quotes from the adolescent mothers who were participants in this research. Such material brings to life the real issues of very real adolescents--their triumphs and struggles, their riches and poverty, their strengths and weaknesses.

Excerpt

In 1987, when the research described in this book was just getting started, teenage parenting was generally thought of as a social problem of epidemic proportions that served to reproduce cycles of intergenerational poverty. Teenage parenting was considered to be a marker of a general problem-behavior syndrome for girls that might also include promiscuity, school dropout, and alcohol abuse. What we overlooked in our focus on risk statistics and pathology, particularly for minority group, poor, inner-city mothers, was that the majority of them do not demonstrate long-term negative outcomes. Ground breaking, longitudinal research by Furstenberg and his colleagues in Baltimore focused attention on subgroup differences in outcomes for women who became mothers as teenagers in the 1950s and began to reveal a very different picture of their development. Becoming an adolescent parent can compound multiple, preexisting adversities (e.g., inner-city poverty, minority status, learning disabilities, school failure, housing instability, etc.) or can contribute to reduced problems among young women who are inspired to make something of themselves on behalf of their child. Life-span outcomes are not static. They are affected positively or negatively by turning points (like dropping out of school), but these outcomes are based on past adversities and resources of individuals, their families, and their communities, and they anticipate the future opportunities that are available. There is a need for researchers and policymakers to increase attention to the variations in individuals and families' responses to adversities, the nature of the actual adversities that young mothers face, and the developmental pathways and processes that support strengths and positive changes for these young women and their children.

This book is among the first to report on the strengths of poor adolescent mothers whose children were born in the last decade and to clarify the nature of the current obstacles to acquiring the capacity for independent living that is now normative for young women in Western cultures. It not only presents data from a 6-year longitudinal study of young mothers, but also allows these women to tell their own stories in their own words. This book directs attention to intervention points where small investments in supporting women's strengths would yield large gains over time in advancing their abilities to permanently exit poverty.

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