Improving the odds for children of teen mothers: What matters most?

Cheri A Vogel, University of Pennsylvania


Adolescent motherhood has serious developmental consequences for children, with effects often lasting into adulthood. Programs to foster self-sufficiency and parenting skills in teen mothers, while bolstering the cognitive and socioemotional development of their children, have met with limited success. Further information on factors affecting child development, particularly those that can be improved programmatically, is needed. This study examined data from New Chance, a voluntary randomized trial of all intensive program for teenage mothers and their children that operated nationally between 1989 and 1992. Despite a rich array of services, New Chance had few effects on mothers or their children. This study examines the effects of maternal psychosocial well being, intensity of work and educational pursuits, home environment, and use of childcare on combined experimental and control group children's cognitive and behavioral development. Favorable home environment offered protection from poor cognitive development, as did (mothers) earning a high school credential. Risk factors for poor cognitive development were Hispanic ethnicity and long term welfare receipt when the mother was a child, while maternal education was protective. Extended exposure to center-based childcare was protective for cognitive development for children under age 1 at intake. Behavior ratings of children were supplied by mothers and by teachers. Mothers' depression and parenting stress were associated with higher maternal reported behavior problems while minority status and earning a high school credential predicted fewer maternal reported behavior problems. Child sex (male) was the most important risk factor for poor teacher ratings, followed by maternal employment, high maternal parenting stress, and child age. Maternal education was a protective factor for poor teacher ratings. Use of childcare did not predict behavior, except that children over 2 using the most center-based care were at increased risk for poor maternal ratings. It is hoped that these findings will be useful to developers of the next generation of programs. In particular, these findings suggest that programs should address parenting stress and continue to support and encourage education for teenage parents.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Developmental psychology|Adult education|Continuing education|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Vogel, Cheri A, "Improving the odds for children of teen mothers: What matters most?" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9937796.