Distress May Be Pre-Existing Condition in Teenage Moms

Study finds teen mothers' psychological distress precedes pregnancy and has many causes

MONDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Teenage mothers are more distressed than their childless peers, but their distress usually precedes their pregnancy and results from family, school, socioeconomic and other factors, according to a study in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Stefanie Mollborn, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado in Boulder, and a colleague examined the psychological distress among teenage mothers compared to peers without children and older mothers. The researchers used data from the multi-wave National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study -- Birth Cohort.

The researchers found that teenage mothers were more distressed than their childless peers and adult mothers, but that they were already more distressed prior to pregnancy and childbirth. In regression analysis, the researchers determined that each unit increase in the psychological distress scale at wave one of Add Health doubled a girl's odds of becoming a teenage mother by wave three (odds ratio, 2.08). However, the distress itself was the result of underlying factors such as socioeconomic status, school problems, family structure, or sexual experience. They also found that distress increased the likelihood of adolescent childbearing only among poor teenagers.

"Contrary to common assumptions, however, their increased psychological distress did not appear to be caused by experiencing teenage childbearing. Rather, teenage mothers' distress levels were already higher than their peers before they became pregnant, and they remained more distressed than others after childbearing, and into early and middle adulthood," the authors write.

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Jeff Muise

Jeff Muise

Updated on May 23, 2011

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