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Extent of utilization of coping mechanisms among young mothers.


The World Health Organization defines adolescence as the period of life between 15 and 24 years old, and marks the beginning of an individual's awareness of and interest in the opposite sex. Development of interpersonal relationships with the opposite sex is part of socialization in adolescence. However, it also poses serious challenges and risks to the adolescent. In this light, the findings of a United Nations Population Fund paper that the Filipino youths are maturing biologically at an "early age", encourages us to look more closely at the issue of adolescent reproductive health (ARH) in general and teenage pregnancy in particular. Teenage pregnancy poses serious risks to the mothers and their babies. Moreover, teenage pregnancy poses not only physical health risks; it also brings about serious social, economic, and emotional cost for the teenaged mothers, their families, and communities.

Society is faced with a glaring truth that at a very young age, many young people today have children of their own. More than the number, teenage pregnancy is a cause of concern because of the special role young women play in society. Therefore, the consequences increase and become more serious. Most young mothers do not know what to do when confronted with these problems because early pregnancy is a crisis that is often faced by girls alone. A child needs a nurturing and stable environment in order to grow and develop fully to become integrated individuals. Sometimes single teenage mothers have inadequate support systems for raising a child.


This paper presents the coping mechanisms of teenaged girls who become parents out of wedlock. The issue of out-of-wedlock teenage parenthood has been an increasingly troubling one. Unwed teenage mothers and their children have become widespread not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well. Some 11% of teenaged girls between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant each year accounting for approximately 1 million pregnancies.

This study is premised on the theory of Maslow, which states that the coping mechanism behavior of a person has the purpose of satiating a need. Coping behavior is purposeful, motivated and often learned, and usually causes changes in the teenaged mothers' environment. By its very nature, coping behavior is based on external forces such as a response to an emergency or problem. In Maslow's words, "It is an attempt to make up internal deficiencies by external satisfiers. Coping may be expressed in a number of ways. For instance, a teenaged mother coping with esteem needs may choose to work exceptionally hard on a job in order to earn a living to provide the needs of the child and the favor of parents. Another teenaged mother works a part time job extending into the late evening hours may cope with the physiological need.

Moreover, this paper included the conceptual and philosophical framework of social development. It views young people as a critical component of any population or society and as a crucial asset in the development of human capital globally. It emphasizes a proactive focus wherein social change processes and social service programs should not be primarily focused on responding to crises and providing perpetual remedial interventions but rather on areas of prevention and socialization. In the context of social development, prevention and socialization are other dimensions that are critical in addressing environmental issues of teenage pregnancy.

The theory of socio-cultural change--risk and protective factors, as posited by Trommsdorff (2000) cited by Videbeck (2004), is used to argue that the individuals are shaped and nurtured by the context and quality of the social environment in which they are nurtured and socialized. Within the change context or the social environment, the individual is expected to develop attachment, self-efficacy and problem-solving abilities. The family and peer group function as the social resource systems for the individual. On the basis of Trommsdorff theory, individual growth and well-being are mediated by a range of socio-political, economical and individual issues.

The independent variables included in this study are the profile of the respondents in terms of age, educational attainment, monthly family income, arid support system. As to age, it is a major predictor of coping mechanism on the belief that older respondents perform bigger tasks towards their life, career, and family as compared to the younger respondents. The effects of hard work, busy schedule, and varied tasks to be performed by older respondents make them weak enough to cope with the problems. Educated people are less likely to prolong their coping mechanism due to stressful experiences, since they are the most likely knowledgeable on how to combat it (Punsalan, 1997).

The family income is taken into consideration to see if the coping mechanism of teenaged mothers originates from financial matters. Teenaged mothers with substantive family income have high level of coping mechanism as they have the assets to do leisure, rest, and relaxation activities which help them cope with the situation. Lastly, the support system creates an atmosphere of acceptance so that comfortable expressing may provide a safe place frustrations, boredom, or common problems.

On the other hand, the dependent variable is the coping mechanism among young mothers in terms of emotional and mental support, physical, social, spiritual, financial, and child support. Teenaged mothers commonly encounter problems due to family issues, child-rearing, peer relationship, financial needs, and personal issues. Stress stalks young parents as they experience tension and pressures both in their academic and family life. Single parents would have a hard time meeting the academic requirements in school and the burden of looking after the needs of the child.

In terms of emotional and mental support, Luker (1996) stressed that one of the most serious type of problems among teen mothers come from emotional and mental support as to whether they are with their families, close friends, neighbors or community members. Most of them interact with at least one person with whom they disagree. Relations like these will likely disturb or bother a person, affects his or her sleep and even consume a great deal of energy, thoughts and time.

Financial needs are common problems of teenaged parents. The demands of studies combined with financial hardships and the need to work hard place the teenaged mothers in a wear and tear situation. Contributing factors include various and difficult academic requirements, isolation from peers, lack of support from family, having to deal with difficult situations such as child-rearing, and strained relationship with the partner.

As to physical aspect, with the problems that beset young mothers, they have to adopt certain coping mechanisms to either fight or make flight out of the situation. Learning to moderate one's physical reactions to problems is one of the most effective coping mechanisms. Slow, deep breathing will bring ones heart rate and respiration back to normal. Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. Learning to moderate these reactions on ones own is a preferable long-term solution.

Another important point to cope with problems is to build one's physical reserves. Exercise for cardiovascular fitness regularly, such as walking, swimming, eating well-balanced, nutritious meals, maintaining ideal weight, avoiding nicotine excessive caffeine, and other stimulants, mixing leisure with work, taking breaks and getting away when one can, and getting enough sleep are very useful stress management plan. Moreover, maintaining one's emotional reserves by developing some mutually supportive friendships can be a good approach to fight stress.

On the social dimension, young mothers need to participate in social activities to cope with the different challenges they encounter in life. Socialization involves meeting with friends, sharing each other's hobbies and skills and attending civic groups. This refers to the process of transmitting values, knowledge, culture and skills to others. This tends to assist young mothers in functioning well in the community despite their predicament (Kozier, Erb, Blais & Wilkinson 2002). With regard to spiritual, religious activities, taking on new meaning for young mothers, who may find comfort, solace and affirmation in religious convictions and continue to attend church services. Involvement in religion often helps the overburdened young mothers to resolve issues related to the meaning of life, to adversity, or to good fortune. Finally, child support is very essential for the growth and development of the child. The support may come from the immediate members of the family or from a friend. If the child is well-supported emotionally, spiritually, socially, physically, and financially, the well-being of both the child and the mother can be enhanced.


The purpose of this study is to determine whether these young mothers were able to adjust to the change that they encountered: whether they have enough emotional, financial, spiritual, social, mental, and physical support.


This study utilized the descriptive type of research to determine the extent of utilization of coping mechanism among young mothers. The descriptive method of research is a fact-finding study with adequate and accurate interpretation of the findings. It describes with emphasis what actually exists such as current conditions, practices, situations, or any phenomena (Gillis and Jackson, 2002). This study was conducted at NHA, Kauswagan, Cagayan de Oro City. It is situated about 2 1/2 kilometers away from the city proper. It has a total land area of 476 hectares comprising of 7 zones with approximately 5,562 households (2000 census).

Some of the researchers have been previously exposed to the health center of NHA, Kauswagan. It was observed that some of the mothers who submitted for prenatal check-up are as young as 14 years old. Purposive sampling method is used in this study. Categorically, the respondent included is: (1) between 15 and 24 years old; (2) a resident of NHA, Kauswagan, Cagayan de Oro City at least 6 months prior to the conduct of the study; (3) oriented to time, place, day and person; (4) can verbalize and understand vernacular language; and (4) can hear, read, and write. A researcher-made questionnaire was used in the study.

The research instrument consists of two parts. The first part solicits information on the respondent's profile. The second part determines the extent of utilization of coping mechanisms among the respondents. To ascertain the reliability and validity of the research instrument, a try-out was done among ten (10) teenaged mothers at the NHA's adjacent barangay, zone 1, Bayabas.

In data analysis, the following statistical tools were used: 1) Simple percentage and frequency counts for the respondents' profile, 2) Weighted mean for the extent of utilization of coping mechanisms, and 3) ANOVA to test the significant difference on the extent of utilization of coping mechanisms by the respondents according to selected variables.


The findings show that majority of the respondents are 18- 20 years old. This confirms the social policy of Ellickson as cite by Trad (2005), which states that the years between 12 and 18 are an "extremely vulnerable" time in the lives of young people ( Accordingly, validated reports from National Center for Health Statistics disclose that about 11 percent of all births in 2002 were to teens (15 to 19), the majority of teenage births (about 67%) are to 18 and 19 years old girls (and that the average teen becomes sexually active at age 16.

As to educational attainment, the findings show that majority of the teenaged mothers are high school graduates. According to Luker (1996), teenagers who had sex for the first time in their teens did it as early as elementary school and most did it during high school. The University of the Philippines Population Institute made the study in 2002. Some 3.5 percent of all elementary students have already had sex. The first premarital sexual experience of 20 percent of adolescents happened during their high-school years and 13 percent took place after high school.

Early childbearing reduced both the probability of completing high school and the probability of obtaining any postsecondary schooling. Teenage parenthood greatly increases the risk of educational failure. Nearly 1 in 3 girls cited pregnancy as the reason why they dropped out of school in 2004. Even after controlling for race, economic status, and other characteristics, having a child before the age of 20 reduces academic attainment by almost 3 years. Given their lower educational attainment, young mothers often find themselves at a distinct disadvantage in the labor market. When they do work, they have lower family income and higher rates of poverty than women who have given birth at a later age.

On family monthly income, the data imply that majority of the teenaged mothers do not have enough financial capability to support the child. This verifies an article from family planning perspective, which states that women who become parents at their teenage stage are at greater risk to social and economic disadvantage throughout their lives than those who delay childbearing until their twenties. They are less likely to complete their education, to be employed, to earn high wages. The ability of young mothers to support themselves and their children is affected by the employment opportunities available to them.

In the aspect of support system, most of the young mothers have the child's father as their main support. As implied by the article Teenage Pregnancy, teenaged fatherhood can also be a challenge and many feel obliged to support their child. The father joins the mother in taking legal responsibility for the child. The father, like the mother, must provide financial support for the child and make sure that the child is well cared for.

Table 2 presents the extent of utilization of coping mechanisms by the respondents in terms of selected variables. Emotional and mental, social, spiritual, and financial coping mechanisms are sometimes utilized while physical coping mechanism is rarely utilized. Child support is utilized oftentimes. The first coping mechanism is the emotional and mental support. Findings reveal that the young mothers oftentimes share problems with a friend. These young mothers oftentimes talk to their parents regarding their problem. The young mothers always communicate with the father of the child. Furthermore, these teenaged mothers sometimes talk to a friend who has a child of her own. However, they rarely talk to an adviser when problem arises. They oftentimes listen to music. Lastly, the young mothers rarely go to the beach and relax. As a whole, the teenaged mothers sometimes utilize the emotional and mental support.

The article on Parenting Teenage Girls stated that girls suffer from depression more than boys do. They are more sensitive and emotional, and depression leads to many problems, which if not taken care of can be devastating. Therefore, teenaged mothers should give importance to their emotional conditions. (Videbeck 2004). Teenaged mothers need a mature person who can be trusted. Because a young mother may have experienced trauma during her life, she may be fearful of trusting people whom she can be with. Ideally, teenaged mothers should be given experienced, dependable teacher or adviser who is available to communicate with her regularly.

The second coping mechanism is the physical aspect. The data manifest that the young mothers have never engaged in sports but always do household chores. They also rarely sleep during the day, and rarely do aerobics and other related exercises. Moreover, young mothers never visit massage parlors, have never drunk alcoholic beverages with their friends and never smoke cigarettes. In general, these teenaged mothers rarely utilize their physical support. This finding is supported by an article stating that adolescent mothers and their offspring(s) are high risk group. This is because many teenaged mothers are subject to nutritional deficiencies from poor eating habits common in adolescence, including attempts to lose weight through dieting, skipping meals, food faddism, snacking, and consumption of fast food (Gutierrez, 1993).

The next coping mechanism is the social support system. Results show that teenaged mothers always spend time with their families and sometimes spend their time with friends. They never go to bar/dance club and parties. Instead, they sometimes" spend time alone in a quiet environment. On the whole, these teenaged mothers sometimes make use of their social support. This idea validates the statement in the article Teenage Pregnancy that teens may not have good parenting skills, or have enough social support systems to help them deal with the stress of raising an infant.

The next coping mechanism is the social support system. Results show that teenaged mothers always spend time with their families and sometimes spend their time with friends. They never go to bar/dance club and parties. Instead, they sometimes" spend time alone in a quiet environment. On the whole, these teenaged mothers sometimes make use of their social support. This idea validates the statement in the article Teenage Pregnancy that teens may not have good parenting skills, or have enough social support systems to help them deal with the stress of raising an infant.

The fourth coping mechanism is the spiritual support. In general, the teenaged mothers sometimes utilize the spiritual support as their coping mechanism. Teenaged mothers desperately want to feel an attachment to someone. By being attached or connected to someone, a teenaged mother finds worth and value. The need to feel connected stems from the desire within each of us to be connected to our Creator. Consequently, if the person teenaged mothers truly want to connect with Jesus Christ, they must be connected with her fellow human beings before she is introduced to the Creator.

The fifth is the financial support system. The overall weighted mean reflects that the teenaged mothers sometimes utilize the financial support system. With her education cut short, a teen mother may lack job skills, making it hard for her to find and keep a job. A teen mother may become financially dependent on her family or on public assistance. Teen mothers are more likely to live in poverty than women who delay childbearing.

The sixth is the child support system. On the average, the teenaged mothers always utilize the child support system. According to 1997 statistics, less than 4% of all pregnant teenagers place their children for adoption. Why is it so a teenaged mother involved with Teen Mother Choices once made this statement, "Getting pregnant is the price I am willing to pay to feel connected to someone for a few minutes. Parenting my child is the price I am willing to pay to feel connected to someone for 18 years. I can't do anything else, but I sure do give birth to babies good!" As stated, teenaged mothers often have no goals for the future. They often feel as though they cannot accomplish anything. Once a teenager has a baby, she has now accomplished something. Thus, her child becomes a kind of trophy, not a separate individual, but rather an extension of herself.


Out of the six (6) coping mechanisms, child support is most utilized as a coping mechanism of a teenaged mothers and the profile does not influence how they cope with their present situation.

Date Submitted: December 3, 2007

Final Revision Accepted: March 5, 2008


Gutierrez, Y., & King, J.C (1993). Nutrition during teenage pregnancy. Pediatric Annals, 22 (2), 99-106.

Crocket, L.G. & Silbereisen, R. K. (Eds.) (2000). Negotiating adolescence in times of social change (pp. 58-68). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Kozier, Erb, Blais, and Wilkinson, (2002). Fundamentals of nursing. 5th ed. Singapore. Pearson Education Asia Pte Ltd.

Langford, C.P.H, Bowsher, J., Maloney, J., & Lillis, P.P. (1997). "Social support: a conceptual analysis." Journal of Advanced Nursing 25(1), 95-100.

Luker, K. Dubious Conceptions; (1996). The politics of teenage pregnancy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

National Center for Health Statistics. (2002). Births; Final Data for 2002. National Vital Statistics Reports, 12/17/03.

Punsalan, T. G. (1997). Values education for Filipinos. 2nd year Philippines: Salesiana Publisher, Inc.

The Groiler International Dictionary. Editor: William Morris The national campaign to prevent teen pregnancy not just another single issue; teen pregnancy link to other critical social Issues. Washington, DC.

The role of social and personal factors and the timing of events.

Trad, P. (2005). "Mental health of adolescent mother." Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatric (34), pp. 130-142.

Videbeck, Sheila L. (2004). Psychiatric mental health nursing. 2nd ed. Philadelphia; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Klepinger, D. H., Lundberg, S. & Piotnick, R.D. (1995). Adolscent fertility and the educational attainment of young women. Family Planning Perspectives. Volume 27, Number 2.


Liceo de Cagayan University
Table 1 Distribution of respondents' profile

 Respondents Profile     Frequency   Percent

          16                 1         5.9
        18-20               10        58.8
        21-22                4        23.5
        23-24                2        11.8
                            17        100.0

Educational Attainment
 Elementary Graduate         1         5.9
  High School Level          4        23.5
 High School Graduate        7        41.2
    College Level            2        11.8
   College graduate          3        17.6
                            17        100.0

    Family Income
    P 1500-P 3000            9        52.9
    P 3000-P 6000            7        41.2
    P6000-P 10000            1         5.9
                            17        100.0

    Support System
        Mother               4        23.5
        Father               1         5.9
         Aunt                1         5.9
        Uncle                1         5.9
    Child's Father           7        41.2
Family Child's father        3        17.6
                            17        100.0

Table 2 Extent of utilization of coping mechanism

                   Variables                     Mean     Verbal

Emotional And Mental Support
I share my problem with a friend                 3.71   Oftentimes
I talk to my parents regarding my problems       3.65   Oftentimes
I communicate with the child's father            4.71     Always
I talk to a friend who has a child of her own    3.12    Sometimes
I talk to an adviser when there is a problem     2.59     Rarely
I listen to music                                4.06   Oftentimes
I take a walk somewhere                          2.65    Sometimes
I go to the beach and relax                      1.82     Rarely
                    Overall                      3.29    Somewhere

I engage in lots of sports                       1.47      Never
I do household chores                            4.41     Always
I sleep the whole day                            2.59     Rarely
I do aerobics and related exercise               2.47     Rarely
I visit massage parlor                           1.71      Never
I drink alcoholic beverage with my friends       1.24      Never
I smoke cigarettes                               1.71      Never
                    Overall                      2.23     Rarely

I spend time with my family                      3.82     Always
I spend time with my friends                     2.88    Sometimes
I go to Bar/Dance club and party                 1.44      Never
I spend time alone in a quite environment        3.12    Sometimes
I talk to my neighbors                           3.71   Oftentimes
                    Overall                      3.00    Sometimes

I play musical instruments                       2.12     Rarely
I pray                                           4.18   Oftentimes
I meditate regularly                             3.59   Oftentimes
I join prayer meetings                           2.59     Rarely
I read inspirational books and magazine          3.29    Sometimes
                    Overall                      3.15    Sometimes

I receive financial support from the father of   4.53     Always
  my child
I receive financial support from the parents     3.65   Oftentimes
  of my child's father
I receive monetary allowance from my parents     2.71    Sometimes
I receive salary                                 1.47      Never
                    Overall                      3.09    Sometimes

Child Support
My Mother gives me advice on how to give care    4.24     Always
I cuddle the baby                                4.94     Always
I give the baby attention                        4.94     Always
I feed the baby                                  4.94     Always
The baby receives attention from the father      4.29     Always
                    Overall                      4.67     Always
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Author:Dejarme, Emma M.
Publication:Liceo Journal of Higher Education Research
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Dec 1, 2008
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