Academic journal article Family Relations

The Effects of a Family Support Program and Other Factors on the Home Environments Provided by Adolescent Mothers

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Effects of a Family Support Program and Other Factors on the Home Environments Provided by Adolescent Mothers

Article excerpt

THE EFFECTS OF A FAMILY SUPPORT PROGRAM AND OTHER FACTORS ON THE HOME ENVIRONMENTS PROVIDED BY ADOLESCENT MOTHERS*

Tom Luster, Harry Perlstadt, Marvin McKinney, Kathryn Sims, and Linda Jang**

We examine factors related to the quality of the home environments that 83 teenage mothers provide for their 12-month-old infants. The teens and their infants were enrolled in a family support program; teens who received weekly home visits from a family advocate had higher scores on the HOME inventory than those in a comparison group. In addition, the teens who provided relatively supportive environments: (a) were less depressed and more empathic, (b) had infants who were heavier at birth and less irritable at 12 months, (c) received more support from the father of the baby, and (d) lived in safer neighborhoods.

This study addresses two questions regarding influences on the parenting behavior of adolescent mothers. First, do adolescent mothers who receive a relatively intensive family support program provide higher quality care for their year-old infants than adolescent mothers who receive less intensive services? Second, what factors other than the family support program are related to the quality of care that adolescent mothers provide for their infants?

Approximately 1 out of 10 females between the ages of 15 and 19 becomes pregnant each year, and nearly half of those who become pregnant become parents (Moore, 1995). Research on children born to teen mothers shows that these children tend to do less well than their peers on both cognitive and socialemotional measures (Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn & Morgan, 1987; Wadsworth, Taylor, Osborn, & Butler, 1984). However, there are marked individual differences among children born to teenage mothers; some do well whereas others do not.

Those who are successful in school and exhibit few behavioral problems tend to have mothers who are relatively well adjusted, finish high school, limit further childbearing, and eventually become economically self-sufficient (Furstenberg et al., 1987). More successful children of teenage parents also tend to experience more supportive home environments than peers who are doing less well (Dubow & Luster, 1990). As Furstenberg et al. noted, the life courses of the young mothers and their children seem to be intertwined; successful children tend to have mothers who have coped well with early childbearing and who also provide supportive environments for their children.

The Family TIES Support Program

Family TIES (Trust, Information, Encouragement, and Support), a family support program, was designed to help teenage mothers cope with early childbearing and to support the development of their children so that the children ultimately arrive at school prepared to succeed in that setting. The specific goals of the program were based on past research on successful outcomes in children born to teenage mothers. The goals included helping the young mothers complete high school and eventually find adequate employment, avoid additional unintended pregnancies, and provide high quality care for their children. The psychological well-being of the young mothers was also emphasized in this program, because the teens' ability to nurture their children and to take advantage of services that are available are likely to depend on their psychological adjustment (Schorr, 1988).

The design of the program was influenced by what is known from past research about successful family support programs (Olds & Kitzman, 1990; Schorr, 1988). Programs tend to be successful when: (a) the primary person providing the intervention establishes a close relationship with the young mother; (b) the program is long term; (c) case loads are small; (d) the person working with the families is able to cross traditional service delivery boundaries; and (e) the program is ecologically oriented, that is, it focuses on the infant, the mother, the mother's support system, and the larger context rather than on any one of these components. …

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