Teen Mothers and Child Abuse
Mother's age and risk for physical abuse
Cynthia D. Connellya and Murray A. Straus
Using mother's age at time of birth of the abused child, the younger the mother, the greater the rate of child abuse; however, there was not a significant relationship when mother's age was measured at age at time of abuse. Large families and minority group children were also found to be at greater risk of abuse. The paper discusses implications for further research and for prevention of child abuse.
Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hamsshire, Durham, NH, USA
Are Children Born to Young Mothers at Increased Risk of Maltreatment?
David M. Stier MD1
Maltreatment occurred more frequently in the children of young mothers (12.8%) than in the comparison group (6.4%) (risk ratio [RR] = 2.00; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.17, 3.64). Poor growth, defined by growth criteria, occurred in 6.9% of the index group and in 4.1% of comparison children (RR = 1.67; 95% CI = 0.75, 3.73). A change in the child's primary caretaker, either because of placement in foster care or because the mother left the home, occurred in 12.8% of the index group and in 3.2% in comparison children (RR = 4.00; 95% CI = 1.80, 8.87). Children of teenage mothers, compared with children of older mothers, are at increased risk of maltreatment and of changes in their primary caretakers.
John M. Leventhal MD2, Anne T. Berg PhD1, Lyla Johnson RN1, , JoAnne Mezger 1
1 From the Department of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. 2 From the Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.
Parenting Education Addresses Teen Pregnancy
Teen childbearing is widely regarded as a root cause of some of our country's most difficult problems - poverty and welfare dependency, child abuse and other crime, physical and developmental disabilities, drug abuse and homelessness. Untold personal and family suffering, and $29 billion per year in public spending on direct and social costs of teen pregnancy might potentially be avoided.
• 80% of teen mothers will live in poverty and rely on welfare, many for their children's critically important developmental years; few get any support from their babies' fathers.
• Teen mothers are 50% less likely to graduate from high school.
• Teen fathers are also less likely to finish high school, and also earn significantly less later in life.
• Teen mothers eventually have 24% more children but are 50% less likely to marry.
• Compared with women who delayed first births only until 20 or 21, teen mothers have 50% more low birth weight babies, dramatically raising infant deaths, blindness and deafness, chronic respiratory problems and cerebral palsy, retardation and mental illness, and later dyslexia, hyperactivity, other learning disabilities.
• Children of teen mothers have poorer health yet receive only half the level of medical care of other children.
• Children of teen mothers are more than twice as likely to be victims of abuse or neglect and to go into foster care.
• Daughters of teen mothers are 83% more likely to have a baby before age 18.
• Sons of teen mothers are almost 3 times as likely to land in prison.
• Children of teen mothers are more likely to grow up without critically needed emotional support and cognitive stimulation, resulting in lasting disadvantages.
• Children of teen mothers have lower cognitive development, repeat twice as many grades, and drop out of high school far more often. (sources: Alan Guttmacher Institute and Robin Hood Foundation)
Research has shown that as many as 30% of children from all social groups, and even more among those living in poverty, are at risk for later problems because of emotionally inadequate care. Much evidence about the specific poor developmental outcomes resulting from lack of early sensitive care results from a Mother-Child Study (Egeland and Sroufe) that has tracked children primarily of single, frequently adolescent, uneducated mothers for 19 years from prenatal period to early adulthood. Children who have not received sensitive care in their earliest years have been found to be at significantly higher risk for: difficulties forming peer relationships as preschoolers and young teens; lower school achievement, especially in adolescence; requiring special education (72% were placed by 3rd grade); increased behavior problems; and teen drug and alcohol use.
Far more prevalent than the glaring examples of child abuse and neglect, teen pregnancies, and paternal uninvolvement are the subtler versions of poor parenting. Characterized by the lacks of nurturing, respect, guidance, appropriate discipline, and failure to meet the needs of children as individuals, these common family situations also have negative effects on lifetime mental health.
While some serious mental illnesses now appear to be biological in nature, many clearly are not. The lack of healthy parenting practices is implicated in mental health problems that may become manifest in low self-esteem, depression, addictions, violence to self and others, teen pregnancies, school problems and gang involvement. Healthy parenting also has particularly critical impact for the mental health of children who are biologically predisposed to mental illness or who have other special needs or difficult family situations such as divorce, death, poverty, etc.
Teen Pregnancy and Child Welfare
to those youth who age out before 19.4
arly pregnancy and parenthood is directly related to
child welfare, including abuse and neglect and foster
Nearly three out of four young women in foster care
care. Teens in foster care, many of whom suffered abuse
report being pregnant at age 21 compared to only one-
and neglect before leaving their homes, are more likely to
third of young women not in foster care. Repeat preg-
get pregnant than teens not in the foster care system and
nancies are common with almost two-thirds of the
children born to adolescent parents are more likely than
young women in foster care experiencing more than
children born to older mothers to enter the foster care sys-
one pregnancy by age 21.5
More than 500,000 children in America live in foster
care—about 8 out of every 1,000 children. Most chil-
Not only are adolescents in foster care more
dren in foster care return to their families or are
likely to become parents in their teen years,
adopted (often by their foster parents).1
children born to teen parents are more likely
Each year close to 20,000 adolescents in the foster care
to end up in foster care or have multiple
system begin living independently—or “age out” in the
caretakers throughout their childhood.
parlance of the child welfare system—and many are
essentially on their own. In most states this happens at
age 18.2 Adolescents both in foster care and those
who age out of foster care are at increased risk of preg-
By age 21, over half of young women and nearly one-
nancy compared to their peers.2,3
third of young men in foster care have had at least one
Teen girls in foster care are two and a half times more
likely than their peers not in foster care to experience a
Not only are adolescents in foster care more likely to
pregnancy by age 19.2
become parents in their teen years, children born to
Almost half of all teen girls in foster care who have
teen parents are more likely to end up in foster care or
been pregnant experience a subsequent pregnancy by
have multiple caretakers throughout their childhood.6
age 19 compared to less than one-third of girls not in
Young teen mothers (aged 17 and younger at the time
of birth) are 2.2 times more likely to have a child
Sexually active teens who age out of foster care are less
placed in foster care than mothers who delayed child-
likely than youth still in foster care to report using con-
bearing until age 20 or 21, and they are twice as likely
doms or birth control at all in the last year.2
to have a reported case of abuse or neglect compared to
mothers who delayed childbearing.7
Remaining in foster care until age 19 is associated with
a 38 percent reduction in becoming pregnant compared
Teen mothers aged 18-19 are about one-third more
likely to have a child placed in foster care when com-
pared to mothers who had their first child at age 20 or
21. They are almost 40 percent more likely to have a
reported case of abuse or neglect than children born to
mothers aged 20 or 21.7
As noted previously, the children of teen mothers are at
increased risk of either being in foster care or being a
victim of abuse and neglect when compared to children
born to mothers aged 20 or older. The public costs as-
sociated with these child welfare costs were $2.3 bil-
lion in 2004.7
Adolescent and older mothers: Comparison between prenatal maternal variables and newborn interaction measures*1
Rex E. Culp, Mark I. Appelbaum, Joy D. Osofsky and Janet A. Levy
The results indicated that measures of birth weight, gestational age, and 1- and 5-min Apgar scores did not differ between the two groups. Maternal psychosocial characteristics, however, did differ. Adolescent mothers reported being less happy about being pregnant and had less social support. Adolescent mothers also reported less support from the father of the infant. During a newborn feeding interaction, the adolescent mothers vocalized less to their infants than nonadolescent mothers. Implications of the findings for prediction of parenting practices and preventive intervention are discussed.