Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Subsequent Fertility among Teen Mothers: Longitudinal Analyses of Recent National Data

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Subsequent Fertility among Teen Mothers: Longitudinal Analyses of Recent National Data

Article excerpt

A sample of high school age mothers was followed from 1988 to 1994 in order to examine factors associated with having a second teen birth or a closely spaced second birth. The study incorporates a life-course perspective. Factors associated with postponing a subsequent birth include characteristics measured prior to the first birth, at the time of the first birth, and after the first birth. Analyses suggest that a combination of young teen mothers staying in school, living at home with their parents, and (among older teen mothers) being engaged in educational or work activities might help reduce the risk of a second untimely birth. Those teenage mothers who were able to complete their high school diploma, or even their GED, were less likely to have a second teen birth.

Key Words: adolescent motherhood, transition to adulthood.

Teenage childbearing has received renewed media and policy attention, due in part to the welfare dependence levels of teen mothers and to high rates of nonmarital childbearing among teens (Coley & Chase-Lansdale, 1998). The U.S. teen birthrate, after declining in the 1960s and 1970s, experienced a rapid rise between the mid-1980s and early-1990s, and it has since begun to decline again. Despite recent declines, however, the U.S. birthrate remains substantially higher than rates in other industrialized countries, even when comparing the rates only for non-Hispanic White teens.

Although a large body of research has developed over the past three decades that discusses predictors of first births to teen mothers (for extensive reviews, see Coley & Chase-Lansdale, 1998; Moore, Miller, Glei, & Morrison, 1995), the contribution of second or later births to the teen fertility rate has received minimal research attention. Over one fifth of teen births in the United States are second births or higher (Ventura, Mathews, & Curtin, 1998). Moreover, programs targeted to teen mothers often use the prevention of a second teen birth as a criterion of success (Olds et al., 1997; Moore, Sugland, Blumenthal, Glei, & Snyder, 1995).

This study extends current research on predictors of second teen births by following the experiences of a sample of school-age teen mothers from the late 1980s into the 1990s. This research explores heterogeneity in the life-course experiences of teen mothers who had a first birth within four years of eighth grade, and it identifies factors from the family, individual, and school that are associated with (a) having a second birth at any time during the teen years and (b) having a closely spaced subsequent birth that occurs within 24 months.


Teen mothers have, on average, lower educational attainment and a greater risk of welfare dependence and poverty than women who postpone childbearing past their teen years (Hofferth, 1987; Luker, 1991 ). Although there has been an extensive research debate on whether teen childbearing is causally associated with negative outcomes among mothers, existing evidence is not compelling enough to reject the assertion that teen mothers have more negative outcomes than women who postpone childbearing (Hoffman, 1998; Maynard, 1997). Although teen mothers who remain in stable marriages have more positive economic outcomes, women who marry in their teen years face a greater risk of marital disruption than other women (Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn, & Morgan, 1987). In addition, although some studies indicate that teen mothers might cycle out of poverty, their children are at a greater risk for health, cognitive, behavioral, and academic difficulties than are children of older parents (Furstenberg, Levine, & Brooks-Gunn, 1990; Haveman, Wolfe, & Peterson, 1997; Moore & Snyder, 1991; Moore, Morrison, & Greene, 1997).

Having a second child during the teen years appears to heighten the risk of poor educational and economic outcomes for young women and their children. …

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