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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Teen Parenting Pilot

Teen Parenting Pilot Study
Violence Exposure, Mental Health Functioning, and Parenting Efficacy Among Teenage Mothers

Despite declines over the past 15 years, the U.S. has higher rates of teenage childbearing than any other developed country. Teen parenthood is an important public health problem due to its negative impact on the life course of both the teen and the child. There have been substantial efforts to meet teen mothers’ parenting needs and prevent poor child outcomes through home visitation programs that provide one-on-one pre- and post-natal parenting oriented services. These programs are well-validated and overcome many barriers that prevent teen mothers from receiving services (e.g., transportation, lack of knowledge about existing welfare programs); however, there continue to be unmet needs and barriers to engagement in this population. For example, a young mother’s history of violent trauma has been found to predict greater interruptions and fewer completed sessions of home visitation. In addition, these home visitation programs focus on parenting efficacy and infant development while there is evidence that this population presents with significant mental health needs. Given that teen mothers present with multiple psycho-social risk factors, additional research is needed to understand the potential consequences of unmet mental health needs both for engagement in parenting interventions and for outcomes for both mother and infant.

This study is a pilot project involving collection of interview-based and observational data from 30 teenage mothers (ages 19 and under) and their infant children (ages 3 to 12 months). Interviews focus on parenting knowledge and attitudes, mental health functioning, and lifetime history of interpersonal violence exposure. In addition, interactions between the teen mother and infant are videotaped and coded to assess maternal sensitivity and parenting skills. Participants are currently being recruited from the community through the help of agencies serving young mothers (e.g., the Nurse-Family Partnership, Florence Crittenton Programs of South Carolina). The primary aim of this project is to gather preliminary data on the relations between violence exposure, mental health problems, and parenting among teenage mothers. A secondary aim is to understand teen mothers’ access to and use of existing community services, including home visitation programs, mental health counseling, and welfare programs.

For more information, please contact Kristyn Zajac (Principal Investigator) by phone at 843-876-1800, or by e-mail at


Disclaimer: Photos are being used for illustrative purposes only, and any person depicted is a model. Rights to all photos have been purchased.

Principal Investigator
Kristyn Zajac, Ph.D.

Daniel Smith, Ph.D.

Funding Agency
Medical University of South Carolina's University Research Committee

Start Date - End Date
February 2010 - October 2012



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