Some (but not much) progress toward understanding teenage childbearing: a review of research from the past decade

Adv Child Dev Behav. 2012;42:113-52. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-394388-0.00004-6.


In the decade and a half since Coley and Chase-Lansdale's (1998) review of teenage childbearing, there have been a number of studies investigating teenage childbearing from a developmental psychological perspective. Many of these studies have focused primarily on identifying individual, familial, and socioeconomic risk factors in childhood and adolescence that are highly correlated with teenage sexual behavior and teenage childbearing. We have an emerging understanding of teenage childbearing as the culmination of a complex cascade of experiences and decisions that overlap greatly with the risks for antisocial behavior. Much of this research, however, is limited by its reliance on correlational and cross-sectional research designs, which are not able to rigorously test causal inferences or to identify mechanisms associated with teenage childbearing. Innovative studies using large, nationally representative samples with quasi-experimental and longitudinal designs can expand on such descriptive studies. In particular, quasi-experimental studies can help answer questions about which risk factors are causally associated with teenage childbearing and suggest potential mechanisms that can explain how teenage childbearing is associated with poor outcomes. Future studies also will need to incorporate more precise measures of developmental processes and explore heterogeneity among adolescent mothers. Although advances have been made in the psychological study of teenage childbearing, more research is needed in order to answer important questions about which psychological processes are causally related to teenage childbearing and how teenage childbearing is associated with poor outcomes for young mothers and their offspring,

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Causality
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / psychology*
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data
  • Public Health
  • Research
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Socialization
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States