Investigating the Relationship between Teenage Childbearing and Psychological Distress Using Longitudinal Evidence

University of Colorado at Boulder, Institute of Behavioral Science, Boulder, CO 80309-0483, USA.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.72). 10/2009; 50(3):310-26. DOI: 10.1177/002214650905000305
Source: PubMed


The high levels of depression among teenage mothers have received considerable research attention in smaller targeted samples, but a large-scale examination of the complex relationship between adolescent childbearing and psychological distress that explores bidirectional causality is needed. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study--Birth Cohort, we found that teenage mothers had higher levels of distress than their childless adolescent peers and adult mothers, but the experience of teenage childbearing did not appear to be the cause. Rather teenage mothers' distress levels were already higher than their peers before they became pregnant, and they remained higher after childbearing and into early and middle adulthood. We also found that distress did not increase the likelihood of adolescent childbearing except among poor teenagers. In this group, experiencing high levels of distress markedly increased the probability of becoming a teenage mother Among nonpoor teenage girls, the relationship between distress and subsequent teenage childbearing was spurious.

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Available from: Stefanie Mollborn, Mar 24, 2014
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    • "They are, of course, also more likely to be depressed at a later age. On the other hand, there is also some evidence suggesting that depressed individuals are more inclined than others to have their first child early, and that this explains the apparently adverse effect of teenage childbearing on depression, at least among the socio-economically disadvantaged (Mollborn & Morningstar, 2009). Similarly, poor physical health could affect the timing and quantum of fertility (Syse, Kravdal, & Tretli, 2007) and also lead to later depression. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: Life course influences on later life depression may include parenting trajectories. We investigate associations between number and timing of births and use of antidepressant medication in late mid-life using data on the whole Norwegian population. Methods: We estimated logistic regression models to analyse variations in the purchase of antidepressants between 2004 and 2008 by timing of births and number of children among women and men aged 45-73, using Norwegian population register data. We controlled for age, education, marital and partnership status, and (in some models) family background shared among siblings. Results: Mothers and fathers of two or more children were generally less likely to purchase antidepressants than the childless. Mothers who started childbearing before age 22 were an exception, although according to sibling models they were not more likely to purchase antidepressants. All models showed that women who became mothers before age 26 and had only one child had higher odds of medication purchase than the childless. Older age at first birth was generally associated with lower risks of antidepressant purchase. Conclusion: This analysis of high-quality data for a national population indicates that early motherhood, childlessness and low parity are associated with higher usage of antidepressants in late mid-life. Our data did not allow identification of mediating pathways, and we lacked information on early mental and physical health and some other potentially important confounders not shared between siblings. Furthermore purchase of antidepressants is not a perfect indicator of depression. Those concerns aside, the results suggest complex effects of fertility on depression that merit further investigation.
    Preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Aging and Mental Health
    • "As such, negative associations of adolescent childbearing with health later in life may reflect the health risk factors that predispose women to adolescent or early childbearing in the first place, rather than a causal effect of fertility timing itself, and these selection processes may differ by race-ethnicity. A growing body of research using instrumental variables, PSM, and sibling models to minimize selection bias suggests that teen childbearing has very little causal effect on educational and socioeconomic attainment (Geronimus and Korenman 1993; Hotz, McElroy, and Sanders 2005; Levine and Painter 2003; Ribar 1994) and psychological distress (Mollborn and Morningstar 2009). Kearney and Levine (2012:142) conclude, " Our reading of the totality of evidence leads us to conclude that . . . "
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    ABSTRACT: Despite evidence that first-birth timing influences women’s health, the role of marital status in shaping this association has received scant attention. Using multivariate propensity score matching, we analyze data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 to estimate the effect of having a first birth in adolescence (prior to age 20), young adulthood (ages 20–24), or later ages (ages 25–35) on women’s midlife self-assessed health. Findings suggest that adolescent childbearing is associated with worse midlife health compared to later births for black women but not for white women. Yet, we find no evidence of health advantages of delaying first births from adolescence to young adulthood for either group. Births in young adulthood are linked to worse health than later births among both black and white women. Our results also indicate that marriage following a nonmarital adolescent or young adult first birth is associated with modestly worse self-assessed health compared to remaining unmarried.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Journal of Health and Social Behavior
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    • "The quality of the teen mother's relationship with her own mother may have important influences on both her parenting and her coparenting relationship with her child's father (Black & Nitz, 1996; Eshbaugh, 2008; Eshbaugh & Luze, 2007; Gavin et al., 2002). Due to their developmental stage, teens are also less likely than adults to have strong communication and interpersonal skills that foster well-functioning relationships (LeTourneau, Stewart, & Barnfeather, 2004; Mollborn & Morningstar, 2009; Moore & Florsheim, 2001). Given this body of research, we expect that an intervention designed to facilitate and support positive coparenting skills in this more vulnerable group of parents may have important positive effects on fathers' involvement with their children, on mothers' and fathers' psychological adjustment and parenting behavior, and on the behavioral health of their children. "
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    ABSTRACT: Teen childbearing is associated with a range of adverse outcomes for both mothers and children, and perpetuates an intergenerational cycle of socioeconomic disadvantage. Fathers may be an underappreciated source of support to teen mothers and their children. The strongest and most consistent predictor of positive father involvement is a positive coparenting relationship between the mother and father. Thus, strengthening the coparenting relationship of teen parents may be protective for both parents and children. This paper describes the rationale, the intervention model, and the cultural adaptation of Strong Foundations, an intervention designed to facilitate and enhance positive coparenting in teen parents. Adapted from an evidence-based coparenting program for adult, cohabiting parents, this intervention was modified to be developmentally and culturally appropriate, acceptable, and feasible for use with urban, low-income, minority expectant teen mothers and their male partners. The authors present lessons learned from the cultural adaptation of this innovative intervention. Pilot testing has shown that this model is both acceptable and feasible in this traditionally hard to reach population. Although recruitment and engagement in this population present specific challenges, young, urban minority parents are deeply interested in being effective coparents, and were open to learning skills to support this goal.
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