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Sandra Teen Model Special 25

It is clear that being a child of a teenage mother often entails numerous risks: low birth weight, complications of the mother's pregnancy and delivery, and health problems associated with poor perinatal outcomes; greater risk of perinatal death; lower IQ and academic achievement later on, including a greater risk of repeating a grade; greater risk of socio-emotional problems; a greater risk of having a fatal accident before age one; and finally, a greater probability of starting one's own family at an early age. Although there are variations from study to study, most studies that survey a representative sample from a population that has had no special interventions and is of diverse socioeconomic makeup, and that do not control for SES or other factors, find that children of teen parents are at greater risk than children of older parents for a host of health, social and economic problems.

sandra teen model special 25

Several other studies (Presser, 1976; Newcomer and Udry, 1984) have also found that daughters of early childbearers are likely to be early childbearers themselves. Newcomer and Udry (1984) were unable to explain much of this relationship in terms of transmissable attitudes, communication patterns or behavioral control attempts. Thus they hypothesized a biological mechanism such as age at physical maturation. However, they could not rule out causes (such as socioeconomic background) that may be common to both mother and daughter. Maternal modeling is also a reasonable hypothesis: that the daughter tends to do what the mother does, rather than what she says. However, in the case of early sexual activity and childbearing, the behavior is not directly modelable since it precedes the birth of the daughter. The daughter cannot model what the mother did while she was a teenager, only what she does now.

Family structure appears to be one of the most important factors intervening between parental age, background factors such as SES and race and the outcomes of the child's cognitive development, such his/ her later achievements. Besides the Card and Cohen et al. analyses, several other studies have examined selected parts of the model and have found family structure to be an important intervening factor. Both Menken and McCarthy (1979) and Kellam et al. (1982) found that children of mothers who were teenagers at first birth were themselves more likely to spend time with only one parent than children of older childbearers.

One of the consistent and most important findings in the study of the effects of mother's age at first birth and child outcomes is that the education of the mother has a consistent positive impact on the intelligence and achievement of her child. The effect is consistently large, regardless of how it was included as part of the model: about 1 IQ point for each year of schooling of the mother in several of the studies (Cohen et al., 1980; Davis and Grossbard-Schechtman, 1980; Edwards and Grossman, 1979). Previous research (see Chapter 6) has shown a strong relationship between an early first birth and educational deficits among young women. Not only does lack of schooling hinder the prospects for a young woman's future employment, economic well-being, and life success, but it appears to have very detrimental effects on her children. Unfortunately, we still have very little information about exactly what education means. If we had some better understanding of what it is about education that improves children's cognitive and socioemotional performance, then we could better target programs to teen mothers. One possible link is through parenting behaviors of such mothers. This is the topic of the following section.

Although a relationship between an early first birth and the child's health at birth has been found, this appears to be a result of less than adequate prenatal and perinatal care rather than biology, since it appears to disappear in special hospital populations that receive excellent health care. Unfortunately, here again, what prenatal care contributes is not clearly defined. Children of older mothers are consistently less healthy at birth than children of average age mothers. This is likely to be a true biological effect. The few studies that have looked at the health of infants of adolescent and older mothers find few direct effects of age on infant health. One study, however, did find the death rate from accidents within the first year of life was much higher for infants of teenage than older mothers, even controlling for maternal education and family size.

The studies are also consistent in suggesting that there may be important indirect effects: through family structure, maternal education and family size. An early birth is associated with a greater probability that the family will be headed by a single parent, that the mother will complete less schooling and that there will be a larger number of children. And these factors have also been shown to have effects on the cognitive development and achievement of the child. Schooling appears to be the most consistently important of these, with family structure a close second, although not all of these have appeared in the same way in all models. More work could be done comparing the relative contributions of these three factors. It is especially important to look more at the contribution of schooling, since it (and family size) is most subject to manipulation. Since there is very little understanding about exactly what schooling contributes to an individual's capabilities, more work is needed to define what it is about the amount of schooling the mother completes that improves the cognitive ability and performance of her children. Differential school completion may simply reflect differential motivation or capabilities, for example. 350c69d7ab


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