Challenges and Consequences of Teen Childbearing

Teen childbearing can be challenging for adolescent parents and their children.

Becoming a teen parent can reduce adolescents’ number of years of schooling long-term (although after accounting for other socioeconomic factors the effect is small).1 Relatedly, becoming a teen parent can have long-term consequences for young women’s earning potential,2 making them more likely to need public assistance and have low income in adulthood.3 It is important to understand that teen childbearing is most challenging when it is less common for a particular geographic area or sociodemographic group.2,4 This means that not all teen parents experience the same hardships directly as a result of having a baby as an adolescent. It is also difficult to fully understand the impact of having a baby as an adolescent because the life outcomes of teen mothers are largely explained by their socioeconomic circumstances before having a baby. Regardless, becoming a parent as an adolescent is particularly difficult emotionally and psychologically because a teen pregnancy often strains relationships, isolating the teen mother.5,6 Moreover, teen mothers also are still developing and maturing.7 There are programs and services that may help adolescent parents overcome some of the challenges associated with becoming a teen parent by providing life skills, parenting, and employment education. Learn more about parenting and baby health.

Children born to adolescents face particular challenges—they are more likely to have poorer educational, behavioral, and health outcomes throughout their lives, compared with children born to older parents. However, like the challenges teen mothers face, the challenges their children face are largely explained by the mothers’ socioeconomic circumstances before having a baby. Moreover, the challenges for both mother and baby are more severe in the short term.8

Footnotes

Kane, J. B., Philip Morgan, S., Harris, K. M., & Guilkey, D. K. (2013). The educational consequences of teen childbearing. Demography50(6), 2129–2150. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-013-0238-9back to top

Diaz, C. J., & Fiel, J. E. (2016), The Effect(s) of Teen Pregnancy: Reconciling Theory, Methods, and Findings. Demography, 53, 85-116. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-015-0446-6 back to top

3 Hoffman, S. D., & Maynard, R. A. (Eds.). (2008). Kids having kids: Economic costs and social consequences of teen pregnancy (2nd ed.). Urban Institute Press. back to top

4 Gorry, D. (2019). Heterogenous Consequences of Teenage Childbearing. Demography, 56, 2147-2168. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-019-00830-1 back to top

Mollborn, S. (2011). “Children” Having Children. Contexts10(1), 32–37. https://doi.org/10.1177/1536504211399048 back to top

Jacobs, J., & Mollborn, S. (2012). Early motherhood and the disruption in significant attachments: Autonomy and reconnection as a response to separation and loss among African American and Latina mothers. Gender & society: official publication of Sociologists for Women in Society26(6), 922–944. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243212459073 back to top

Hodgkinson, S., Beers, L., Southammakosane, C., & Lewin, A. (2014). Addressing the mental health needs of pregnant and parenting adolescents. Pediatrics133(1), 114–122. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-0927 back to top

Mollborn S. (2017). Teenage Mothers Today: What We Know and How It Matters. Child development perspectives11(1), 63–69. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12205 back to top