Primary Sources: 'Natural Mentors' Make a Difference for Teen Moms

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Photograph of a young woman with her mentor.

Natural Mentoring Relationships Among Adolescent Mothers: A Study of Resilience” (abstract), Journal of Research on Adolescence, Vol. 20, No. 3, September 2010.

What it's about: The authors studied 93 young African American mothers for five years, starting in their senior year of high school. The researchers wanted to know whether having a supportive relationship with a “natural mentor” made a difference for these teen moms.

Why read it: While researchers have documented many risks and disadvantages associated with teen childbearing, some adolescent mothers successfully adapt. This study adds to our limited knowledge about the factors that may help teen mothers succeed.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: Young mothers who had natural mentors – such as nurses, friends of the family, aunts and other people outside the immediate family – coped with stress better than other teen moms. They also had fewer symptoms of depression in tough situations. The authors suggest that programs nurture informal mentoring relationships that already exist and provide opportunities for adolescent mothers without natural mentors to develop healthy relationships with supportive adults.

Additional reference: This article came out of the Flint Adolescent Study, which followed youth in Flint, MI, through high school and into adulthood. The study looked at positive and negative influences on young people’s forming of families, educational achievement, employment, mental health and involvement in their community.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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