Longitudinal and Life Course Studies
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A narrative review of teen mothers’ long-term outcomes: what birth cohort studies tell us

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Lee SmithBattle Saint Louis University, USA

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Louise H. Flick Saint Louis University, USA

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Studies examining the relationship between young maternal age and maternal outcomes are often cross-sectional or short term. We review birth cohort studies that investigate life course outcomes of teen mothers past age 25. Strengths of birth cohort studies include a focus on a complete cohort, rather than a sample, and prospective data collection beginning before or at birth. Limitations are high cost, attrition and unmeasured background factors. Some 20 studies from six countries met study criteria. This narrative review describes how teenage mothers fare as adults, identifies factors that modify outcomes and examines whether outcomes reflect specific time periods or cohorts.

Childhood disadvantage was a greater marker of teen mothering in more recent cohorts, even in countries with strong social welfare programmes. The effects of young maternal age on all outcomes diminished when strong controls adjusted for selectivity into teen mothering.

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Lee SmithBattle Saint Louis University, USA

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Louise H. Flick Saint Louis University, USA

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