Problems Reported for Children Born to Young Mothers in the United Kingdom

Although the mean age of childbearing is increasing in most western societies, teen births remain high and financial support for young mothers remains low in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States. To find out whether young motherhood was followed by elevated rates of childhood problems, Dr. Terrie Moffitt and the Environmental Risk Study Team (2002) assessed many characteristics of an epidemiological sample of twins born to 1,116 women in England and Wales. According to mothers’ CBCL ratings and teachers’ TRF ratings, the children who were born when their mothers were 20 or younger had significantly higher Internalizing and Externalizing scores than children who were born when their mothers were over 20. Other measures showed significantly higher scores for children of young mothers on measures of inattention-hyperactivity, illnesses, accidents, and injuries; lower IQs on the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI); and lower levels of prosocial behavior as reported by teachers, although not as reported by mothers. In addition, significantly more of the children born to young mothers had received special education services. Although it is possible that the differences stem from young mothers’ greater difficulties in handling twins, the multiple signs of poorer functioning in the children and evidence for multiple kinds of disadvantages in the young mother’s situations indicated that early childbearing is a significant risk factor for children’s development.

 Moffitt, T.E., & the E-Risk Study Team. (2002). Teen-aged mothers in contemporary Britain. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 727-742.