Primary Sources: Social Support Makes African American and Hispanic Teen Moms Less Depressed and Better Able to Cope with Stress

A smiling young Latina mother and her child.

Parenting Stress, Social Support, and Depression for Ethnic Minority Adolescent Mothers: Impact on Child Development.” Cindy Y. Huang, Jessica Costeines, Joy S. Kaufman, and Carmen Ayala. Journal of Child and Family Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2, February 2014.

What it’s about: The authors looked at the impact of parenting stress and social support on depression among African American and Hispanic teen mothers and on their infants’ development. Researchers Cindy Y. Huang, Jessica Costeines, Joy S. Kaufman and Carmen Ayala from the Yale School of Medicine and Bridgeport Public Schools interviewed 180 African American and Hispanic young moms in an urban area in the Northeast United States. The average age of the moms was 16. Each mother was first assessed when her child was 6 months old and then again one year later.

A 12-measure scale assessed three sources of social support: family, friends and significant other. The moms also filled out a 30-item survey that measured their symptoms of depresson. Their children were screened for age-appropriate development in several areas, such as receptive and expressive language, fine motor skills and socio-emotional awareness.

Why read it: Huang, Costeines, Kaufman and Ayala write that the teen pregnancy rate is higher among African American and Hispanic adolescents than among their white peers. Minority mothers have higher rates of depression and are more likely to drop out of school and live in poverty. And children of teenage mothers are also at higher risk for developmental delays. Understanding the ways parental stress and social support can affect parenting and infant development would assist youth workers in designing appropriate programs for African American and Hispanic teen moms.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: In their literature review, Huang and her colleagues cite previous research showing that teen mothers are more likely than adult moms to lack social support; in particular, they are less likely to have the support of a partner. Adolescent mothers in the study had fewer friends in their social networks. Adolescents who were parenting for the first time also experienced additional stress and negative emotions associated with parenting.

Mothers with depression are typically less reliable and less responsive to their babies, and more likely to be neglectful and unpredictable, Huang, Costeines, Kaufman, and Ayala write. They also write that children whose mothers are depressed have more difficulties reaching developmental milestones such as learning to walk and talk. They also have less healthy attachment and problems with regulating emotions. Children with these difficulties are more vulnerable to later poor outcomes, including anxiety, depression and difficulty adjusting to school later in life.

Teenage mothers who had higher levels of social support from friends, family, and a significant other or parental figure were better equipped to cope with stress related to being a parent, and were less depressed than other teen moms. Children of less depressed moms had fewer developmental delays.

Youth workers can promote the health of both moms and babies by finding ways to decrease the stress of teen moms and increase the supports they have in their lives.

Additional references: The assessment tools used in this study include:

Read about how to recognize postpartum depression in teen mothers in our  NCFY Report on mental health.

Learn more about what teen mothers experience and how to help them achieve positive outcomes for themselves and their children in our recent slideshow.

Look for more articles about social support and teen parenthood in NCFY’s research library.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families.

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