Interwoven Lives: Adolescent Mothers and Their Children

Interwoven Lives: Adolescent Mothers and Their Children

Interwoven Lives: Adolescent Mothers and Their Children

Interwoven Lives: Adolescent Mothers and Their Children

Synopsis

Despite a growing body of scholarship on the phenomenon of adolescent parenting, minimal attention has been given to investigating systematic changes in adolescent mothers' and their children's psychological functioning over time. This book reports on a longitudinal study conducted to examine the social and psychological consequences of teen parenting for both mothers and their children. Qualitative and quantitative analyses are used to explain why some mothers and children fare better than others, showing that the lives and developmental trajectories of adolescent mothers and children are inextricably interwoven and closely linked to the social contexts within which they live. The book closes with social policy implications of the research including recommendations for intervention programs and policies to help adolescent parents and their children achieve developmental success and find happiness.

Excerpt

Although adolescent parenting is not a new phenomenon in the United States, the familial and cultural setting in which it is embedded has changed dramatically during the past several decades. In the first half of the 20th century, young single women who became pregnant often married or received physical supports from the fathers of their children. In other cases, families absorbed the newborn and its mother into their supportive network. Alternatively, it was common for unmarried mothers to place their children for adoption. In the 1960s, a new trend emerged in which teenage mothers increasingly rejected adoption as an option and raised their children as single parents, sometimes within the context of an extended family, but often on their own. Frequently, these mothers lived in poverty, surviving through welfare assistance and support from friends, partners, or family of origin.

With the emergence of this new trend in adolescent parenting, societal concerns were registered about its potentially adverse effects for both the child and the mother. Although considerable research on adolescent parenting has been conducted, it has tended to be narrow in the scope of the inquiry. Minimal attention has been given to investigating systematic changes in adolescent mothers and their children's psychological functioning over time. Moreover, little attempt has been made to understand individual differences in outcomes. For instance, why do some teen mothers and their children fare better than others?

In 1984, a longitudinal study was launched at the University of Notre Dame to evaluate the social and psychological consequences of teen parenting for both mothers and their children. In contrast to previous research, the mothers in this sample, although poor, were not enmeshed in “deep poverty.” At the inception of the study the adolescent mothers were, for the most part, in school. Generally, their children had normal birth weights and gestational ages, were without congenital anomalies, and showed no evidence of cocaine addiction or fetal alcohol effects. Compared to studies of samples originating in large urban settings, our sample appeared more advantaged, and the infants healthier.

At the time of the writing of this book, data collection had been completed for a period extending from the last trimester of a mother's pregnancy until the time her first child was 5 years of age. Comprehensive information on the cognitive, socioemotional and behavioral functioning of both mothers and children was collected at five timepoints: prenatally . . .

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