Purpose: To examine the relationships among grandmother co-residence, parenting, and early child development among low income, urban families with teen mothers whose children vary in growth (adequate versus failure to thrive [FTT]).
Methods: Seventy-nine adolescent mothers of infants and toddlers (42 with adequate growth and 37 with FTT) recruited from a primary care clinic. Data collected during a laboratory evaluation included a videotaped session of mother and child during feeding, developmental assessment (Bayley Scales), and questionnaires on family support, perceived parenting stress, and maternal perception of child's temperament.
Analysis: Multivariate analyses of covariance. Independent variables were growth (adequate/FTT) and grandmother co-residence (present/absent). Dependent variables were maternal warmth during feeding, maternal perception of child's temperament, child's mealtime behavior, and child's cognitive and motor development. Covariates were child's age, maternal age, maternal education, parity, family support, and perceived stress.
Results: Teen mothers living with grandmothers were younger (mean age = 17.4 versus 18.6, p = .03) and had fewer children (mean parity = 1.2 versus 1.7, p = .001). Mothers displayed more warmth when not living with grandmothers (p = .01). Among adequately growing children, grandmother co-residence was associated with better motor skills (106 versus 98, p = .039). In contrast, among children with FTT, grandmother co-residence was associated with lower motor skills (90 versus 100, p = .017).
Conclusions: Although multigenerational families may be protective for some teen parents and their young children, grandmother co-residence was not associated with maternal warmth. With the added stress of a poorly growing child, grandmother co-residence was associated with less optimal motor development.