Are Educational Factors Linked to Better Birth Outcomes for Teen Moms?

A young mom bottle feeding her baby.

Academic performance, educational aspiration and birth outcomes among adolescent mothers: a national longitudinal study” (abstract). Yiqiong Xie, Emily Wheeler Harville, and Aubrey Spriggs Madkour. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, Vol. 14, No. 3 (2014).

What it’s about: Xie, Harville, and Madkour explore whether and how academic performance and educational aspiration impact birth outcomes for young moms and their infants. Using a large sample of data collected for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, they selected information for 763 private and public school students who had delivered one baby during adolescence. The researchers measured academic performance using the respondents' GPA and an average of their letter grades. They also assessed academic aspiration through questions like whether or not the respondents were interested in attending college.

Why read it: We've seen that poor academic performance and low educational aspiration have been linked with risky behaviors among Native American middle schoolers. Such behaviors, in turn, may be related to poor birth outcomes such as low birth weights and early delivery among pregnant teens, the authors write. This study adds to the literature by assessing how educational performance and expectations relate to birth outcomes for a nationally representative sample of teen moms across multiple races and ethnicities. It also explores how school-related factors may influence students' risk of teen pregnancy.

Biggest takeaways from the research: Xie et al. compared findings for African American respondents against those of other participants. Among participants who did not identify as African American, higher educational aspiration was related to a higher birth weight. Among African American moms, neither academic performance nor educational aspiration was linked to changes in birth weight or gestational age at birth.

Skipping a grade also had different outcomes for different participants. For example, non-African American moms who skipped a grade tended to have infants with a higher birth weight and gestational age. African American mothers who skipped a grade had infants with a higher birth weight, on average, but those infants experienced no significant changes in gestational age at birth.

The authors also conducted analyses to see if academic performance and educational aspiration predicted the likelihood of teen pregnancy. For all participants, a below-average GPA was associated with a higher risk of pregnancy. Among girls who were not African American, both skipping and repeating a grade were related to a higher likelihood of pregnancy, while higher educational aspiration was linked to a lower risk.

Additional references: Look for more articles about education and pregnancy or college aspirations and teen pregnancy in our digital library.

Read about ways to support young moms' college aspirations.

Learn what the research says about the connection between low literacy and teen pregnancy.

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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