Parenting behaviors among adolescent mothers in the National Early Head Start Program: The role of teenage motherhood, maternal depression, and parenting stress

Diana Mejias, Pace University

Abstract

This doctoral project examines the relationships between teenage motherhood, mental health, and maternal parenting behaviors, using data from approximately 3,000 families who participated in a nationwide evaluation of Early Head Start. Outcome data were collected when the children were 36 months old. Measures included the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale-Short Form (CESD-SF), Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF), the Parent-Child Semi-Structured Play Task, the Puzzle Challenge Task, and a modified version of the Preschool version of the Home Observation Measurement of the Environment - Short Form (HOME-SF). Maternal mental health problems included depression and parenting stress. Adolescent mothers were defined as being less than 20 years of age when the target child was born. Parenting behaviors included positive (warmth, supportiveness, stimulation of language and learning) and negative (detachment, intrusiveness, negative regard, harshness) aspects of mother-child interactions. It was hypothesized that teenage motherhood and maternal mental health would predict maternal parenting behaviors above and beyond established risk factors. Independent t-tests, Chi-square analysis, Pearsons correlations and hierarchical multiple regressions examined these relationships. Contrary to the hypothesis teenage mothers did not differ significantly from adult mothers in their levels of mental health. The theoretical model was generally supported as associations between age, mental health and parenting behaviors were established. However, many relationships were weak: for example, relationships between teenage motherhood, mental health, and maternal parenting behaviors tended to be significant but small. Nevertheless, these associations persisted above and beyond the effects of established risk for a good portion of the parenting behaviors examined. The best fitting regression model combined the following variables: program status, established risk factors, teenage motherhood, and maternal stress, predicting almost 22% of the variance in parenting behavior scores. The most unexpected finding was the lack of support for maternal depression and parental distress in predicting emotionally supportive mother-child interaction scores. Lastly, some risk factors demonstrated predictive ability even when teenage motherhood and maternal mental health variables were included in the regressions, augmenting the model's fit. Further research is indicated to refine understanding of the relationships tested, and to examine them in the context of Rafferty's (2006) larger theoretical model. ^

Subject Area

Education, Early Childhood|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Diana Mejias, "Parenting behaviors among adolescent mothers in the National Early Head Start Program: The role of teenage motherhood, maternal depression, and parenting stress" (January 1, 2007). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI3257355.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI3257355

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