Nearly one out of every five adolescent girls who give birth is delivering her second child. Although teenage pregnancy rates are on the decline in the United States, many efforts to delay second births in teen mothers have been unsuccessful. A new study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, presented at the 2003 Pediatric Academic Societies conference in Seattle, finds that a structured home-based intervention program is an effective means of delaying second births in teens.
"The numbers show that the intervention did help in delaying second births. Many of the young mothers were then able to stay in school and prepare for a job," says the study's author Maureen Black, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The intervention program, which focused on adolescent development and parenting, included 181 first-time, African-American adolescent mothers who agreed to participate in the study after giving birth at hospitals in downtown Baltimore. They were randomly selected to participate in one of two groups. One group of the adolescent mothers received a year of home-based intervention, where a young African-American woman trained as a mentor visited the new mom an average of nine times. The mentors followed an established curriculum that touched on everything from sex education to taking care of a baby. The mothers in the control group did not receive any intervention.
Of the 146 women who completed the 24-month study, 12 percent of the intervention group and 23 percent of the control group had a second baby. The number of home visits among the intervention group varied. Among those who received at least two intervention visits, only eight percent had a second baby. Nationally, among adolescent mothers, rates of a second birth 24 months after delivery of the first child range up to about 39 percent.
Not only did this study investigate an effort to delay second births, it looked into the psychological and behavioral aspects of adolescent mothers. "While most people associate having a second baby during the teen years as a 'risk' behavior, this was not the case in our study," says Dr. Black. "Our data found that the teens with a second child were older, had higher self esteem, and were more often in stable relationships, as compared to the mothers with just one child. Having a second child was often associated with 'growing up' and entering adulthood, rather than being a risk behavior. However, it is very difficult for teen mothers with two children to stay in school, prepare for a job, and take care of their young children," she adds.
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