Adolescence is considered a time of identity versus role confusion (Erikson, 1968). According to Grotevant and Cooper (1986), adolescence is characterized by the process of individuation and separation. It is a time of identity development (Marcia, 1966, 1980) and egocentrism (Elkind, 1967), a time to experience the feeling of "personal fable," "imaginary audience," and "foundling fantasy" (Elkind, 1978).
Erikson (1959) believes that adolescents should be allowed to indulge in a certain degree of experimentation in their educational and social environments. He refers to this period of experimentation as a "psychological moratorium," a time when adolescents can try out different roles, identities, personalities, and ways of behaving. Experimenting with roles is an important prelude to establishing a coherent sense of identity. Without a period of moratorium, the teenagers' identity development will be delayed. On the other hand, some adolescents' identity exploration leads to negative consequences and behaviors, such as sexual promiscuity, use of drugs and alcohol, conduct disorders, delinquency, depression, suicide, and teenage pregnancy.
In the United States, each year one in ten (or over 1 million) teenage girls become pregnant--the highest rate of any industrialized nation in the world (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1990; Davis, 1989; Jones, Forrest, Goldman, Henshaw, Lincoln, Westoff, & Wulf, 1986; Wright & Barnes, 1989). Teenage pregnancy has become a major social and economic problem; in 1986 it cost the United States $16.6 billion (Adams & Gullotta, 1989).
The outcomes of early parenthood are long-lasting, affecting both teenage mothers and their children. Besides the health risks of early pregnancy and childbearing, adolescent mothers are also confronted with economic, psychological, social, and educational challenges.
Adolescent pregnancy often leads to truncated educational attainment and, subsequently, to lower earning power (Furstenberg, 1976; Marini, 1984; Mott & Maxwell, 1981). The younger the adolescent at the time of the pregnancy, the greater the negative effects (Mott & Marsiglio, 1985).
Teenage mothers are also at high risk of experiencing repeat pregnancies and for living a life of poverty (Hayes, 1987). There is research evidence which suggests that infants born to adolescent mothers suffer from cognitive deficits and educational delays (Baldwin & Cain, 1980; Brooks-Gunn & Furstenberg, 1986; Osofsky & Osofsky, 1970).
Several researchers have investigated the reasons for the increasing number of adolescent pregnancies. Various explanations have been offered, but no single cause has been found, nor is there consensus among experts as to why teenage pregnancy has become a national epidemic. Some (Robbins, Kaplan, & Martin, 1985; Russ-Eft, Sprenger, & Beever, 1979) speculate that the home environment tends to be very stressful for the pregnant adolescent. Others (Babikian & Goldman, 1971; Boyce & Benoit, 1975; La Barre, 1968) point out that a large majority of pregnant adolescents come from single-parent families.
Some researchers (Babikian & Goldman, 1971; La Barre, 1968) argue that the mother/daughter relationship prior to pregnancy is often strained. Still other experts have establishd a relationship between low self-esteem and adolescent pregnancy (Abrums, 1980; Abernathy, 1974; Elkes & Crocitto, 1987; Patten, 1981; Robbins, Kaplan, & Martin, 1985; Thompson, 1984; Zongker, 1977, 1980).
The terms self-esteem and self-concept have been used interchangeably by some researchers. Others point out that the use of such terms as self, self-image, self-identity, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-concept lacks consistency, and definitional consensus is difficult to achieve (Jensen, 1985). For the purpose of this paper, self-esteem was defined as the emotional evaluation teenagers make about themselves, which is generally in the form of approval or disapproval. …