Living Arrangements and the Outcomes of a Teen or Young Adult Birth

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Adolescent childbearing remains an important indicator of our nation's social well-being and public health. Few nationally representative studies have examined the social support provided by the different family structures and living arrangements of adolescent mothers and the relationship that they might have to the health and well-being of the mother and child during the prenatal and postpartum periods.

 This study utilized data from female respondents age 15-19 and 25-44 from Cycle 6 & the continuous 2006-08 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG).  This study contained two samples: 1) 4,477 women who became mothers as a young adult or adolescent and 2) a more focused subsample of 215 current adolescent mothers. Regression analyses examined the relationship between maternal age at first birth and prenatal, birth, and short-term postpartum outcomes for the mother and child, as well as the extent to which supportive living arrangements moderated these associations.  

 Results of analyses for young adult and adolescent mothers indicated that living with a cohabiting partner reduced the risk of breastfeeding cessation for middle adolescent mothers.  Middle adolescent mothers had a 36% higher risk of rapid repeat birth, but this was reduced by living with a spouse. Educational attainment was positively associated with maternal age, and this association was further magnified for married adolescent mothers.   Results of analyses for current adolescent mothers indicated that an early adolescent age at first birth was not significantly associated with initiation of prenatal care, infant birth weight, sexual risk taking behavior, or duration of breastfeeding. Moderation analyses revealed that, although living with two parents was associated with earlier initiation of prenatal care, living arrangements did not moderate the relationship between maternal age and infant birth weight, sexual risk taking behavior, or duration of breastfeeding. 

 These findings indicate that although adolescent age at first birth may be associated with poorer outcomes, this relationship may be reduced by parental or partner supportive living arrangements. Future research should examine the influence of social support on additional outcomes. Implications for policy and programs are discussed.