Continuing education mitigates the negative consequences of adolescent childbearing

Sullivan, K.; Clark, J.; Castrucci, B.; Samsel, R.; Fonseca, V.; Garcia, I.

Maternal and Child Health Journal 15(3): 360-366


ISSN/ISBN: 1092-7875
PMID: 20204480
DOI: 10.1007/s10995-010-0585-8
Document Number: 366893
Beginning childbearing during adolescence is consistently linked with negative outcomes for both children and parents. Many have attributed this association to maternal background characteristics which are often difficult to change through policy. Though maternal educational attainment is often a side effect of adolescent childbearing, it also represents a potential avenue through which we can help young mothers overcome the obstacles associated with an early birth. The data for this study come from the 1997 Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a nationally representative sample of mothers and their children (N = 3,193). Data are used to explore the cognitive stimulation and emotional support in the home, measured using the HOME Scale (Caldwell and Bradley in Home observation for measurement of the environment. University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, 1984). OLS regression models how maternal education moderates the association between age at first birth and quality of children's home environment. Adolescent mothers scored significantly lower on the indicator of home environment than older mothers. However, when continuing education was considered, maternal age at first birth was no longer significantly associated with the home environment. The negative consequences of early births were mediated by adolescent mothers' continuing education efforts. While interventions are needed to reduce adolescent childbearing, these results highlight the need to ensure that adolescent mothers are provided support to continue their education following delivery. The negative consequences of adolescent births are not inevitable. Encouraging school retention may help young mothers form a safe, healthy, nurturing, and developmentally appropriate home environment.

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