Under one roof: The risks associated with living in three-generation households

Although grandmothers are an important source of support for young mothers, a new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine finds that preschool children living in three-generation households (with an adolescent mother and a grandmother) do not have fewer behavioral and developmental problems than other preschool children. In the study, published in the April issue of Pediatrics, the researchers found that living in a three-generation household was associated with more behavior problems among children born to adolescent mothers, especially when the children had been maltreated or their mothers had symptoms of depression.

The study, "Behavior and Development of Preschool Children Born to Adolescent Mothers: Risk and 3-Generation Households," included 194 teenage mothers from Baltimore, Chicago, Seattle and North Carolina. Researchers collected data on their living situation, on whether the young mothers were depressed, and whether their 4- to 5-year old children had been neglected or maltreated. Twenty-six percent of the children in the study lived in three-generation households, 39 percent had a history of maltreatment, and 32 percent of their mothers were depressed.

"Grandmothers are often an important source of support and stability for teen mothers when their babies are young," says Maureen M. Black, Ph.D., a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "But these households can also be stressful for both mothers and grandmothers," adds Dr. Black, the study's lead author.

Dr. Black says there can be a role conflict as the young mother becomes an adult. Is she a teenage daughter or a young mother? She says as they mature, young mothers are often ready to secure a job and move to their own home, to become more independent.

The study concludes that it may not be advisable to rely on three-generation households as young mothers enter adulthood. "The most functional youn

Contact: Alexandra Bessent
University of Maryland Medical Center

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