ST. LOUIS -- A new Saint Louis University study rebuts the assumption that all teenagers who have babies face a future of dismal failure.
"Earlier studies exaggerated the long-term negative consequences associated with teenage mothering," says Lee SmithBattle, R.N., DNSc, professor of nursing at Saint Louis University Doisy College of Health Sciences and principal investigator of a qualitative study that analyzed the experiences of teen mothers a dozen years after they had given birth to their first child.
"This study and several others show that teen mothers fare better over time than our assumptions suggest," she says.
SmithBattle, who has been researching teen mothers for 17 years, found that early motherhood has not ruined their lives.
She has followed the lives of mothers and their families every four years, starting when their babies were less than a year old. For this article, SmithBattle analyzed interviews conducted when 11 moms were in their 30s to show how becoming a mom as a teen affected their lives. Her article appears in this month's issue of Western Journal of Nursing Research.
Some women in their early 30s found great meaning in parenting, marriage and their work. Others were also devoted parents but they lacked fulfillment in marriage or a career. A third group of mothers found much less meaning in parenting and felt powerless to cope with the responsibilities of motherhood.
"In spite of adverse childhood experiences, mothering for some teens provides a corrective or turning-point experience," SmithBattle says.
Some women "first find their voices in loving and caring for a child," she says. "Mothering placed them on a new path and gave new meaning and depth to their lives.
Mothering transformed their worlds and created a new moral horizon for how they should live.