Investigating How to Help Urban Minority Teens 'Co-Parent'

Young parents with their baby.

Strengthening Positive Coparenting in Teen Parents: A Cultural Adaptation of an Evidence-Based Intervention” (abstract). Amy Lewin, Stacy Hodgkinson, Damian M. Waters, Henry A. Prempeh, Lee S. Beers and Mark E. Feinberg. The Journal of Primary Prevention, Vol. 36, No. 3 (June 2015).

What it’s about: Researcher Amy Lewin and her colleagues wanted to see if Family Foundations, an evidence-based program designed to help adult parents of young children "co-parent," could be tailored for low income, urban minority teen mothers and the fathers of their babies. Co-parenting is “the way parents work together to care for their children, and it is separate from parents’ romantic, legal, or financial relationships,” the authors write.

Why read it: Research has shown that positive father involvement when teen parents don't live together can strengthen young families in a number of ways. The strongest predictor of positive father involvement, according to earlier research, is a healthy co-parenting relationship. Lewin and her colleagues write that to date, few parenting interventions have been designed for teens. Only two interventions focus on co-parenting among teen parents, and those were aimed at pregnant mothers. Lewin and her colleagues wanted to develop a program that extends after babies are born.

Biggest takeaways from the research: The authors wanted their tailored program, Strong Foundations, to take into account teen parents’ life experiences and age. They also wanted teens to think the program was worth attending. In pilot tests, participants rated the program highly and said it was helpful. They liked the class material and were very likely to put their new skills to use. Here are some of the authors' main observations about the successes and challenges of their pilot:

  • Building on fathers’ existing relationships with the mothers of their children and with male case managers was the most effective way to recruit young dads and get them to enroll. 
  • Text messaging was the most effective way to communicate with teen fathers.
  • Interactive activities such as role plays kept teen parents engaged and invested. Participants were encouraged to bring their own life experiences and scenarios into role play activities and other communication exercises, as opposed to simply watching videos about program concepts.
  • Teen parents were juggling other academic, medical, and family responsibilities, and encountered community violence and public transportation barriers that made them late or absent to sessions. To respond to these challenges, staff were flexible about scheduling.
  • Having an additional facilitator who could talk with a couple privately before, during, or after sessions helped when relationship conflicts surfaced. Facilitators used the services of social workers and clinic and school staff to address participants’ individual needs.

The authors say organizations that serve teen parents need more funding to support the time- and staff-intensive tasks of recruiting, engaging and retaining teen participants in co-parenting programs.

Additional references: Look for more articles on pregnant and parenting youth and cultural adaptations in NCFY’s research library.

Read our summary of a research study that investigated African American teen fathers’ perspectives on fatherhood.

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, or the Administration for Children and Families.


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