Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting: Findings from a Racially Diverse Sample

By Patricia L. East; Marianne E. Felice | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Qualities of Adolescent Mothers' Parenting

The quality of adolescent mothers' parenting has been the focus of much research (see, e.g., reviews by Bierman & Streett, 1982; Brooks-Gunn & Furstenberg, 1986a; Elster, McAnarney, & Lamb, 1983; Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn, & Morgan, 1987a; Osof sky, Hann, & Peebles, in press; Panzarine, 1988; Phipps-Yonas, 1980; Roosa, Fitzgerald, & Carlson, 1982b; Schellenbach, Whitman, & Borkowski, 1992). Most studies examining the quality of adolescent mothers' parenting have focused on adolescents' behavior in the context of mother-infant interactions, and compared adolescent mothers to adult mothers (e.g., Conger, McCarty, Yang, Lahey, & Burgess, 1984; Garcia-Coll, Vohr, Hoffman, & Oh, 1986; Levine, Garcia-Coll, & Oh, 1985; McAnarney, Lawrence, Riccuiti, Polley, & Szilagyi, 1986; Roosa, Fitzgerald, & Carlson, 1982a; Teberg, Howell, & Wingert, 1983). Regarding the latter trend, the general conclusion of these studies is that adolescent mothers, when compared to adult mothers, are reportedly less sensitive, less verbal, and less responsive to their infants' interactional cues. However, most studies do not control for the socioeconomic factors associated with early childbearing. When such controls are implemented, few differences emerge between the parental behavior of teenage mothers and adult mothers ( Baldwin & Cain, 1980; Elster et al., 1983; Klerman, 1993; McAnarney et al., 1986; Panzarine, 1988). Moreover, by examining only group level differences between adolescent mothers and adult mothers, it is not possible to learn of the potential for variation within groups of adolescent mothers ( East, Matthews, & Felice, 1994). Indeed, it is important to recognize that not all adolescent mothers parent alike. Some teenagers lack the maturity and sense of responsibility to adequately nurture their children, whereas others adjust well to the stresses of parenting and provide favorable caregiving.

The other trend ascribed to studies of adolescent mothers -- that of examining exclusively their behaviors -- overlooks the importance of the psychological components of parenting, such as adolescents' parenting attitudes and values, perceived

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