Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Cultivating Self-Efficacy in Adolescent Mothers: A Collaborative Approach

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Cultivating Self-Efficacy in Adolescent Mothers: A Collaborative Approach

Article excerpt

A variety of school-based programs to serve teen parents, their children, and families has proliferated during the past decade. While these programs vary in approach, they share the critical affirmation that it is possible for adolescent parents to stay and succeed in school (Warner, 1990). In the face of threats of reduced governmental funding negatively affecting such programs, it becomes necessary for concerned school counselors to use their knowledge, skills, and resources to seek creative, collaborative, community-based solutions to address the needs of school-aged parents and their children.

This article describes a flexibly funded, adolescent-parent support program that coordinates an array of services. The aim is to diminish the limitations teen parenthood places on life options and to promote the optimal development of teen parents and their children. Because a variety of agencies, individuals, and organizations cooperatively provide services and funds, this comprehensive program does not depend on any single resource.

On the basis of self-efficacy and resiliency theories, the program provides child care for the babies of teen mothers attending high school and support for young parents. The aim is to encourage the parents to complete high school, empower them to plan for transitions to additional training and/or the workplace, and enable them to balance the demands of parenting, school, and working. The program's success in assisting 28 teen mothers and their babies over the past 5 years is measured by the 86% of participants who graduated from high school and the 82% who avoided another pregnancy until beyond graduation. All of the graduates are currently working and/or furthering their education.

A summary of the research and theory that influenced the program design precedes a description of program components.

RESEARCH AND THEORY

The Changing Context of Teen Parenthood While adolescent childbearing has been the norm for most of human history, the changing context has created a complex problem for young mothers and fathers, their children, and the public (Vinovskis, 1992). Earlier fertility, increased teen sexual activity, fewer teen marriages, increased stressors on unmarried-parent family structures, isolation from extended support systems, and the practical need for more education all contribute. A current backlash against welfare mothers and teen parents following a recent trend toward destigmatization forewarns more difficulties to come.

Teen Motherhood and Educational Outcomes

While pregnancies are declining, births are increasing. Fewer teens are choosing abortion, and there are fewer fetal deaths among this age group. Without intervention, 50% of teen mothers become pregnant again within one year of giving birth (Supporting Teen Mothers,1994).

Many consider teenage parenthood synonymous with educational and economic failure. The Children's Defense Fund (1991) identifies poverty as the single biggest predictor of adolescent pregnancy. The fact that a child has an adolescent single parent is the best single predictor that the child will live in poverty. About 40% of female dropouts report that they leave school due to pregnancy or marriage, and more than 4 out of 10 adolescent mothers will not have obtained their high school diplomas by age 29. Programs that enable teen mothers to complete their education and to become self-sufficient intervene in this cycle of poverty.

Recent research indicates that behaviors such as school failure, delinquency, substance abuse, and unprotected sexual activity tend to be interrelated, with school failure often setting off the other events (Earle,1990). According to the Children's Defense Fund (1991), girls with poor basic skills are five times more likely to become pregnant than girls with average or better basic skills. A relationship also exists between early childbearing, lower educational attainment, and subsequent employment opportunities (Whitman, Borkowski, Schellenbeck, & Nath,1987) as well as between school attendance and avoidance of repeat pregnancies (Phipps-Yonas,1980). …

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