Compared to adolescents who delay parenthood, those who become mothers experience elevated risks for negative outcomes (e.g., Coley and Chase-Lansdale 1998; Herdman 1997; Maynard 1997). Adolescent mothers are less likely to complete high school, avoid welfare, be employed, have stable employment, and earn adequate incomes. Longitudinal research shows that for many adolescent mothers, some of these negative consequences may be short term, as many are able to eventually complete school and become economically self-sufficient. However, they are likely to experience numerous stressful life events, adverse family functioning, and low levels of life satisfaction.
There is a great variability among adolescent mothers in the likelihood of becoming socioeconomically disadvantaged. For example, having parents with more education, attending a special school for pregnant youth, having high aspirations at the time of birth, finishing high school within five years of the birth of a first child, limiting sub-sequent childbearing, and growing up in a family that did not receive welfare promoted economic well-being (Brooks-Gunn and Chase-Lansdale 1995). Some findings also suggest that the economic disadvantages of early parenting may be more prevalent among African Americans than among whites. Although being a young mother seems to influence later experiences, the contextual precursors (e.g., poverty) associated with adolescent parenthood explain much of the deleterious effects.
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