Mothers, children, and parenting: The role of age and a test of home visitor services as a strategy to improve parenting of adolescent mothers

Mary Cary Bradley, University of Pennsylvania


Children born to young mothers have substantially worse outcomes than do those born to older mothers. However, measures of the association are sensitive to statistical methods and models, suggesting that maternal age has both direct and indirect effects on child outcomes. The complex nature of parenting and concern for children at risk for poor developmental outcomes have spawned numerous interventions targeting a wide range of characteristics of mother, child, and the environment they share. Home visiting is one such intervention. The dissertation examines the relationship between the mother–child age gap and four aspects of child well-being: (1) language development, (2) aggressive behavior, (3) withdrawn behavior, and (4) anxious or depressed behavior. In addition, it examines empirically the ability of paraprofessional home visiting to mediate these poor child outcomes for an especially vulnerable group of young mothers—teenage mothers receiving cash assistance. Ordinary least squares regression of the longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study assesses the association between the mother–child age gap and the four elements of child well-being. Ordinary least squares regression of the Teenage Parent Home Visitor Services Demonstration Evaluation Program data estimates the impact of home visiting on the parenting of welfare-dependent teenage mothers. In this case, teenage mothers receiving welfare benefits had been randomly assigned to a home visiting program or to a services-as-usual control group. Findings are consistent with those in previous research. Differences in child outcomes by mother–child age gap are explained largely by demographic and background factors. The analyses identify mutable characteristics—including parenting practices, such as parenting stress and quality of home environment—that have significant associations with child well-being even when controlling for an array of demographic and background characteristics. Home visiting had no significant impacts on knowledge of infant development, parenting stress, or the quality of home environment of the teenage participants. Although similar to other evaluations of paraprofessional home visiting programs, the findings are not in accordance with recent attempts to expand the nurse home visiting program, including amending the Social Security Act to fund nurse home visiting programs.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Social work|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Bradley, Mary Cary, "Mothers, children, and parenting: The role of age and a test of home visitor services as a strategy to improve parenting of adolescent mothers" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3292010.