The ripples of adolescent motherhood: social, educational, and medical outcomes for children of teen and prior teen mothers

Acad Pediatr. 2010 Sep-Oct;10(5):293-301. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2010.06.008. Epub 2010 Aug 1.


Objective: We examined medical, educational and social risks to children of teen mothers and children of nonadolescent mothers with a history of teen birth (prior teen mothers) and considered these risks at both the individual and societal level.

Methods: A population-based, retrospective cohort study tracked outcomes through young adulthood for children born in Manitoba, Canada (n = 32 179). chi(2) and logistic regression analyses examined risk of childhood death or hospitalization, failure to graduate high school, intervention by child protective services, becoming a teen mother, and welfare receipt as a young adult.

Results: For children of both teen and prior teen mothers, adjusted likelihoods of death during infancy, school-aged years, and adolescence were more than 2-fold higher than for other children. Risks for hospitalization, high hospital use, academic failure, and poor social outcomes were also substantially higher. At a societal level, only 16.5% of cohort children were born to teen and prior teen mothers. However, these children accounted for 27% of first-year hospitalizations, 34% of deaths (birth to 17 years), 30% of failures to graduate high school, 51% in foster care, 44% on welfare as young adults, and 56% of next-generation young teen mothers.

Conclusions: Children of prior teen mothers had increased risks for poor health and for educational and social outcomes nearly equal to those seen in children of teen mothers. Combined, these relatively few children experienced a large share of the negative outcomes occurring among young people. Our results suggest the need to expand the definition of risk associated with adolescent motherhood and target their children for enhanced medical and social services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Manitoba
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence* / psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Class