Reducing the stigmatization of teen mothers

MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2013 Jul-Aug;38(4):235-41; quiz 242-3. doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e3182836bd4.


Teen mothers are stigmatized by stereotypes that they are unmotivated, irresponsible, and incompetent parents. In spite of the pervasiveness of these stereotypes, stigma is rarely described as a contributing factor to teen mothers' difficulties and their health and social disparities. After tracing how teen mothers have been misrepresented and stereotyped over the last half century, I describe what is known about the stigma associated with teen mothering, reasons for its persistence, efforts to reduce it, and its potentially harmful effects. Stigma should be of concern to nurses because stigmatizing practices impede effective clinical care, contribute to teen mothers' many challenges, and violate the nursing ethic that patients be treated with respect and dignity. Recommendations for restoring dignity and reducing stigma in healthcare focus on developing recognition practices that are predicated on respect and concern for the teen's well-being and her capacity as a mother. Nurses are also urged to advocate for services and policies that reduce the stigmatization and marginalization of teen mothers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / organization & administration
  • Attitude to Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services / organization & administration
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / psychology
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnant Women
  • Social Perception
  • Social Stigma*
  • Social Support*
  • United States