1. Sadler, Lois S. PhD, APRN, BC, PNP

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In my opinion, based on the evidence and a public health perspective, it makes good sense to provide school-based parenting and childcare support services to teen mothers and their children.AQ When the discourse about this issue moves away from politicized agendas and focuses on research and outcomes, it is clear that teen parents, their children, their families, and communities all benefit from well-designed and high-quality school-based services for these young families.


All adolescents, including those who are parents, need to attend school regularly. Teen mothers are more likely to drop out of high school or to obtain a GED rather than a high school diploma than are teens who delay childbearing into adulthood. Teen mothers also are less likely to attend college (Hofferth, Reid, & Mott, 2001). Teens who drop out of school due to a pregnancy often have great difficulty reentering the educational system, and this has long-term implications for mother and child. Supporting teen mothers before they drop out of school avoids years of lost opportunities and "catching up" with educational and life course options.


Teens who become pregnant and give birth often have a complex array of emotional, social, economic, and educational vulnerabilities that predate their pregnancies. While many communities recognize the unique educational and service needs of teen mothers and their children, other communities are either uninformed about the scope of their school-aged parent population or, for a variety of reasons, choose not to provide school-based services for their teen parents. They argue that because teen mothers made what were perceived to be bad decisions, they should not be rewarded with special services that will make things easier for them in school. However, the growing body of evidence in the clinical and research literature suggests the opposite.


Years of experience and longitudinal research have shown that teen mothers who stay in school and complete their education are more likely to have better short-term outcomes, such as less subsequent child-bearing, and they have a greater likelihood of pursuing college or other advanced training (Sadler, Swartz, & Ryan-Krause, 2003). Their children tend to have fewer behavioral problems, there are greater chances of consistent parental employment, a higher incidence of housing stability, and decreased welfare reliance. Studies of school-based services for teen mothers indicate that participating teens and their children who have educational, health, and social services built into the school day have better life course outcomes (Seitz & Apfel, 1999). Subsequent studies have shown that school-based services integrated into mainstream high school settings also have the potential to help teen mothers delay subsequent childbearing and complete high school while their children are cared for in a safe and nurturing setting. The added benefits of these programs are that positive mother-child interactions and infant stimulation can be modeled and reinforced by program staff members (Sadler et al., 2003).


Services that help teen mothers stay in school need to be dual-generational, addressing needs of parents and children. These services include parenting classes, support groups, and specialized services (e.g., help with housing, legal issues, transportation, family counseling, access to reproductive/contraceptive care, access to mental health services) for the young mother as well as day-care services for the child. Even among teen mothers who really want to remain in school, lack of affordable safe childcare often is the reason for their absenteeism. Integrating parent support and childcare services will result in even more effective dual-generational outcomes (Moore & Brooks-Gunn, 2002). If more schools routinely had specialized support services for teen mothers and their children, many short-term and longer-term negative consequences for parents and children could be prevented.




Hofferth, S., Reid, L., Mott, F. (2001). The effects of early childbearing on schooling over time. Family Planning Perspectives, 33, 259-267. [Context Link]


Moore, M. R., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2002). Adolescent parenthood. In E. M. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting (2nd ed.) (Vol. 4, pp. 173-214). Mahwah, NJ: Earlbaum. [Context Link]


Sadler, L. S., Swartz, M. K., Ryan-Krause, P. (2003). Supporting adolescent mothers and their children through a high school-based child care center. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 17, 109-117. [Context Link]


Seitz, V., Apfel, N. H. (1999). Effective interventions for adolescent mothers. Clinical Psychology-Science & Practice, 6( 1), 50-66. [Context Link]