Young adult outcomes of children born to teen mothers: effects of being born during their teen or later years

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011 Mar;50(3):232-241.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2010.12.007. Epub 2011 Jan 26.


Objective: Children of teen mothers exhibit adverse outcomes through adolescence. It is unclear whether these adverse outcomes extend to adulthood and apply to all of her children, or only those born when she was a teen. We examine the associations between young adult functioning and being born to a teen mother aged ≤20 years at the time of birth (current teen), and being born to a teen mother later in her life (>21 years, prior teen).

Method: The 1983 Ontario Child Health Study (OCHS) and 2001 follow-up are used, including 2,355 participants 4 to 16 years old in 1983 with 2001 data. Using multilevel modeling we assessed the association between being born to a current versus prior teen mother, relative to a nonteen mother, and 2001 outcomes, controlling for individual and family level characteristics assessed in childhood.

Results: Being born to a teen mother (versus a nonteen mother) is associated with poorer educational achievement, life satisfaction, and personal income. Accounting for time of sample children's birth in teen mothers' lives, individuals born to current and prior teen mothers showed a ~0.8-year educational deficit, relative to individuals born to nonteen mothers in fully adjusted models. Individuals born to current teen mothers reported lower life satisfaction and personal income (-$7,262). There were no significant group differences at follow-up in mental or physical health between individuals born to nonteen mothers and those born to current or prior teen mothers.

Conclusions: Although being born to a teen mother exerts a pervasive adverse effect on educational attainment, the adverse effects on life satisfaction and personal income appear to be selective for individuals born to a current teen mother. Further research is required to understand these differential effects.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Ontario
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Poverty / prevention & control
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence* / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence* / psychology
  • Social Class