Five Things to Know About Teen Parents and How to Help Them

A young woman sits alone looking depressed.
1. Teen parents have high rates of abuse and neglect. Among the respondents of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy’s study of more than 4,400 teen parents, 46 percent had experienced physical or emotional abuse or neglect by a parent or other caregiver. For teen parents who had also experienced homelessness, the number went up to 59 percent.

Teen parents are dealing with a lot. In addition to early parenthood, many of these young people have faced family conflict, poverty-induced stress, abuse and neglect, unstable housing, sexual exploitation. These issues are interconnected, yet little research has examined all of them together, says Elizabeth Peck, public policy director at the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. The alliance’s report, "Living on the Edge: The Conflict and Trauma That Lead to Teen Parent Homelessness," seeks to fill that gap.

The researchers surveyed 4,439 pregnant and parenting Massachusetts teens over a one-year period. They aimed to reveal what they call the "cascade of trauma" faced by teen parents, starting at birth and continuing through pregnancy, homelessness and, for some, sex trafficking. They also studied what factors help young parents become resilient. Young parents said  intensive support from committed, caring adults helped immensely. And perhaps not surprisingly, teen parents also said the very fact of having children motivated them to set goals for school and career—and to meet those goals.

“If we can wrap our heads around what interventions work at what time, we can change the statistics,” Peck says. This slideshow takes you through five things youth and family service professionals should know about teen parents and how to help them.

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