Beliefs about substance use among pregnant and parenting adolescents

J Res Adolesc. 1998;8(1):69-95. doi: 10.1207/s15327795jra0801_4.


PIP: Although substance use among pregnant and parenting adolescents has serious health implications for both mother and infant, few studies have investigated the predictors of such behavior. The present study, based on the Theory of Reasoned Action, tracked substance use behavior, intentions, attitudes, perceived social norms, and beliefs from pregnancy to 12 months postpartum in a cohort of 255 US adolescents (mean age, 16 years). Documented was a pattern in which adolescent mothers engaged in low levels of cigarette, marijuana, and alcohol use during pregnancy, but resumed substance use in the first 6 postpartum months, with rates levelling off by 12 months postpartum. Attitudes and perceived social norms about cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use became increasingly more favorable from pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, paralleling trends in use rates. Doctors were perceived as most opposed to substance use during and after pregnancy, while friends, boyfriends, and siblings were considered to be least opposed. In general, negative outcomes of substance use were viewed less negatively and as less likely after the baby was born. Consistent with the Theory of Reasoned Action, increases in substance use after delivery were accompanied by similar increases in intentions to use these substances, more favorable attitudes toward use, and less perceived disapproval of use. Adolescents' willingness to curtail substance use during pregnancy indicates a concern for the well-being of their infant. This study's findings suggest a need for educational programs that emphasize the need to avoid substance use after as well as during pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent*
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Americas
  • Attitude*
  • Behavior
  • Demography
  • Developed Countries
  • Family Characteristics
  • Family Relations
  • Fertility
  • Mothers*
  • North America
  • Parents
  • Perception*
  • Population
  • Population Characteristics
  • Population Dynamics
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence*
  • Prevalence*
  • Prospective Studies*
  • Psychology
  • Research
  • Research Design
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Smoking*
  • Social Problems
  • Substance-Related Disorders*
  • Time Factors*
  • United States