Although many women wait until they are well into their 20s and beyond to have children, a large number of young women and teenage girls do get pregnant. Whether those pregnancies are intended or unintended, those that are carried to term result in maternal ages that are well-below the age of adulthood. Having a child at a young age not only puts stress on the mother, but also poses a risk for the child. It has been well established that children born to adolescents are more likely to live in poverty and to have developmental and psychological challenges that children born to adult mothers do not.
To better understand the differences in maternal parenting styles and challenges based on the age of the mothers, Amy Lewin of the Center for Clinical and Community Research of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC sought to examine mothers based on developmental maturity. Therefore, rather than looking at adolescent mothers and comparing them to adult mothers, Lewin looked at adolescent mothers (under the age of 19), emerging adult mothers (those between age 19 and 25), and adult mothers (over 25). She assessed all of the mothers when their children reached two years old and evaluated their levels of maternal warmth, discipline techniques, sensitivity, socioeconomic factors, and co-parenting relationships.
Lewin found that there was a significant difference between all three groups of mothers. Even though the adolescent mothers had the highest rates of poverty and the lowest rates of maternal warmth and sensitivity, the emerging adult mothers had levels that were far lower than those of the adult mothers. This suggests that although the emerging adult mothers may be better equipped to handle the stresses of parenting than adolescent mothers, they may still not be fully mature, financially or emotionally, to cope with the demands of mothering as well as older mothers. Surprisingly, Lewin also discovered that the rates of depression and co-parenting conflict did not vary between age groups. This supports Lewin’s belief that maternal age plays a unique and significant role in the way in which a mother parents. Lewin concluded by saying, “Overall, our findings indicate that the younger a mother is, the more she is at risk for maladaptive parenting, and this risk is not restricted to adolescence.”
Lewin, Amy, Stephanie J. Mitchell, and Cynthia R. Ronzio. Developmental differences in parenting behavior: Comparing adolescent, emerging adult, and adult mothers. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 59.1 (2013): 23-49. Print.
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.