Effectiveness of a Family Support Center Approach to Adolescent Mothers: Repeat Pregnancy and School Drop-Out Rates

By Solomon, Richard; Liefeld, Cynthia Pierce | Family Relations, April 1998 | Go to article overview

Effectiveness of a Family Support Center Approach to Adolescent Mothers: Repeat Pregnancy and School Drop-Out Rates


Solomon, Richard, Liefeld, Cynthia Pierce, Family Relations


Effectiveness of a Family Support Center Approach to Adolescent Mothers: Repeat Pregnancy and School Drop-out Rates*

Richard Solomon** and Cynthia Pierce Liefeld

Comprehensive support was provided to urban, first-time adolescent mothers in a prospective research project designed to reduce repeat pregnancy and school drop-out rates. Adolescent mothers were assigned to either an Intervention (n = 34) or Control (n = 29) group. Intervention mothers received home visits, parenting classes, school advocacy, and case management services. Initial assessments occurred shortly after delivery: follow-up measures were administered during a 24-month home visit. Significant differences on outcomes of (1) repeat pregnancy (7 Intervention vs. 14 Control). and (2) school drop-out rates (2 Intervention vs. 8 Control) suggest that intervention programming helped adolescent mothers delay subsequent pregnancy while staying enrolled in or completing school.

Key Words: adolescence, adolescent childbearing, adolescent mothers, family support, repeat pregnancy, school drop-outs.

Adolescent pregnancy, short-interval repeat pregnancy, and lack of further educational attainment typically places the adolescent mother. and her child, within a cycle of reduced alternatives and into persistent welfare dependency (Taylor, 1990). While the rates of pregnancy have remained relatively stable, with over 500,000 adolescents giving birth in the United States each year, the number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies for adolescents is increasing (Fielding & Williams, 1991; Stevens, 1996b; Ventura, 1994). The purpose of this study was to determine if this cycle of reduced alternatives could be favorably interrupted by providing social supports, parenting education, and educational support for a group of urban, low income, unmarried adolescent mothers within the context of a singlesite, comprehensive service model.

The medical, economic, and psychosocial consequences to the adolescent mother, her off-spring, and society have been well documented (Adams & Kocik, 1997; Alexander & Guyer, 1993; Brooks-Gunn & Chase-Lansdale, 1991, Brooks-Gunn & Furstenberg, 1986; Furstenberg, 1976; Maynard, 1995; McAnarney & Hendee, 1989). Pregnancy places the adolescent mother at 2.5 times the risk for death compared to nonadolescent mothers (Ventura, 1994). Infants born to mothers under 15 years of age are more than twice as likely to be low birth weight and are almost three times more likely to die within the first 28 days of life (Stevens-Simon & White, 1991).

The economic costs to society of adolescent child bearing are staggering; the cost of services to families begun by adolescents was nearly $34 billion in 1992 (Center for Population Options, 1994). Adolescent mothers are much poorer and tend to have more children and less education than other women on welfare (General Accounting Office, 1994). Adolescent mothers form a core of those individuals receiving welfare generation after generation, and account for a disproportionately high number of the 40% of all African American children living in poverty (Fielding & Williams, 1991; Stevens-Simon & White, 1991).

Historically, it has been assumed that adolescent mothers are unable naturally to provide for or to accurately interpret the needs of their children because they are developmentally consumed with meeting their own needs. While young adolescent mothers have been found to be less knowledgeable about child development, to hold more punitive attitudes toward childrearing, and to be more depressed than older mothers, not all adolescent mothers seem unprepared for parenting responsibilities, and in fact, some parent well (Ries,1989). Stevens (1996a) suggests that an alternative life course paradigm may account for the more optimal developmental outcomes observed in some adolescent mothers and their children. Childbearing is reportedly perceived by some adolescents as a normative "career choice" or as a "rite of passage" in establishing an adult identity, particularly if they believe that the more traditional roles to adulthood are unavailable (Merrick, 1995; Stevens, 1996a). …

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