We have seen a drop of teenage pregnancies in a lot of countries, but it still happens. A new study examined the longitudinal effects over generations.
From the press release:
The grandchildren of adolescent mothers have lower school readiness scores than their peers, according to a study published February 6, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONEby Elizabeth Wall-Wieler of Stanford University, USA, and colleagues at the University of Manitoba.
Previous studies have established that children born to adolescent mothers are less ready for school and have poorer educational outcomes than children born to older mothers. Several mechanisms have been suggested to explain this association, including maternal education levels, social support and monetary resources.
To determine whether this effect extends to multiple generations, the authors used data from the Manitoba Population Research Data Repository to identify 11,326 children born in Manitoba, Canada, in 2000 through 2006 whose mothers were born in 1979 through 1997. Children born in these years took the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a 103 item questionnaire administered by kindergarten teachers to assess five areas of development. The researchers were able to link information from the data repository, EDI scores, and Canadian Census data. Results were adjusted to account for differences in birth year and location, income quintile, and child’s health at birth.
A greater percentage (36%) of children whose grandmothers had been adolescent mothers were not ready for school than children whose grandmothers were 20 or older at the birth of their first child (31%). The relationship persisted even when a child’s own mother was not an adolescent mother. Compared with children whose mothers and grandmothers were both at least 20 at the birth of their first child, those with grandmothers who were adolescent mothers but older mothers had 39% greater odds of not being ready for school (95%CI: 1.22-1.60). These children lagged behind in physical well-being, social competence, language and cognitive development.
The educational attainment and marital status of mothers and grandmothers was not available in the data, nor was individual income. The mechanisms underlying this multigenerational effect are unclear but the results have policy implications for school readiness interventions as well as calculating the costs and consequences of adolescent motherhood. Interventions to improve outcomes of children born to adolescent mothers should also extend to grandchildren of adolescent mothers, the authors say.
The authors add: “Adolescent childbearing has significant implications for early childhood development – not just for the child of that mother, but also for the grandchild of that mother.”
Abstract of the study:
Children born to adolescent mothers generally perform more poorly on school readiness assessments than their peers born to adult mothers. It is unknown, however, whether this relationship extends to the grandchildren of these adolescent mothers. This paper examines the multi-generational outcomes associated with adolescent motherhood by testing whether the grandchildren of adolescent mothers also have lower school readiness scores than their peers; we further assessed if this relationship was moderated by whether the child’s mother was an adolescent mother.
We used population-based data to conduct the retrospective cohort study of children born in Manitoba, Canada, 2000–2009, whose mothers were born 1979–1997 (n = 11,326). Overall school readiness and readiness on five domains of development were analyzed using logistic regression models.
Compared with children whose mothers and grandmothers were both ≥ 20 at the birth of their first child, those born to grandmothers who were < 20 and mothers who were ≥ 20 years old at the birth of their first child had 39% greater odds of being not ready for school (95% CI: 1.22–1.60). Children whose grandmothers were ≥ 20 and mothers were < 20 at the birth of their first child had 25% greater odds of being not ready for school (95% CI: 1.11–1.41), and children born to grandmothers and mothers who were both <20 at the birth of their first child had 35% greater odds of being not ready for school (95% CI: 1.18–1.54).
These findings suggest a multigenerational effect of adolescent motherhood on school readiness.