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The present study examined relationships among prenatal characteristics of 121 adolescent mothers--including cognitive readiness for parenting, intelligence, social support, and personal adjustment--and intellectual-linguistic development, social-emotional functioning, and adaptive behavior in their children at three years of age. Only 28% of the children scored within normal ranges on all three types of outcomes. Intellectual and linguistic delays were predicted best by prenatal measures of maternal Performance IQ and social support from extended family. Socioemotional problems were predicted best by maternal internalizing problems and social support from partner and friends. Adaptive behavior was associated with parenting style. Implications for the early identification of high-risk children--and associated intervention programs--are discussed.

Children of adolescent mothers are at increased risk for intellectual and social-emotional problems. Marecek (1979) reported that infants of adolescent mothers performed less well than infants of adult mothers on the Bayley developmental scales at eight months of age, the Stanford-Binet at four years, and the WISC at seven years. Moreover, Broman's (1981) longitudinal study revealed a higher percentage of mild mental retardation among children of young mothers than was present in the general population. More recently, Culp, Osofsky, and O'Brien (1996) found that one-year-old infants of adolescent mothers had fewer vocalizations than did infants of adult mothers.

Although research has not extensively explored the social and emotional competencies of children of adolescent mothers, the available evidence suggests that development in these domains may also be adversely affected (Dubow & Luster, 1990; Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn, & Morgan, 1991). For instance, Marecek (1979) found that young children of adolescent mothers are overly conforming and uncommunicative, whereas older children are often hostile and resentful of authority. Aggressiveness, impulsiveness, and distractibility have also been found to be common in children with teenage mothers (Hechtman, 1989), along with a disproportionate percentage of insecure attachments (Ward & Carlson, 1995). These factors, in combination with diminished intellectual-cognitive capacities, set the stage for multiple developmental and academic problems during the early school years.

Considerable information is available regarding individual maternal predictors of child development, but little is known about their relative importance or how maternal characteristics measured during pregnancy are associated with long-term developmental delays in children of adolescent mothers (cf. Furstenberg et al., 1991). Greater insight into how maternal characteristics differentially influence children's cognitive and emotional functioning would help in the early detection and subsequent treatment of children at risk for a variety of development problems.

The present study used a broad-based model of adolescent parenting, proposed by Whitman, Borkowski, Schellenbach, and Nath (1987), to identify specific prenatal maternal correlates of developmental delays. The model features four important characteristics of adolescent mothers--inadequate cognitive readiness for parenting (de Lissovoy, 1993; Field, 1980; Sommer, Whitman, Borkowski, Schellenbach, Maxwell, & Keogh, 1993; Vukelich & Kliman, 1985), low IQ (Garber, 1975), inadequate social support (Barrera, 1981; Unger & Wandersman, 1988), and adjustment problems (Nelson, Gumlak, & Politano, 1986; Passino, Whitman, Borkowski, Schellenbach, Maxwell, Keogh, & Rellinger, 1993; Rickel, 1989)-- which place their children at increased risk for a variety of developmental delays through insensitive or inadequate parenting and increased maternal stress.

In this study, cognitive readiness to parent was defined in terms of knowledge about child development, parenting styles, and parenting attitudes (Whitman et al., 1987). Young mothers tend to lack accurate knowledge about the range of skills possessed by their infants (Granger, 1981; Sommer et al., 1993). In particular, they have inappropriate expectations concerning their infants' development, tending to overestimate or underestimate motoric and linguistic capabilities (Epstein, 1980). Roosa, Fitzgerald, and Carlson (1982) pointed out that studies have characterized adolescent parents as expecting either "too much, too soon" or "too little, too late." Additionally, Sommer et al. (1993) found that adolescent mothers, who were generally less prepared to parent than were adult mothers, reported greater parenting stress, and Camp (1995) concluded that adolescent mothers had more authoritarian parenting styles than did adult mothers. However, children born to adolescent mothers who were more cognitively prepared during their pregnancy, or who became prepared soon after the child's birth, had more positive outcomes, even if they were at risk due to low maternal IQ or personal adjustment (Miller, Heysek, Whitman, & Borkowski, 1996).

In the absence of focused intervention efforts, cognitive readiness to parent is closely associated with maternal IQ; that is, mothers with lower IQs show less preparedness to parent. A number of studies have suggested the importance of maternal learning ability (IQ) in determining children's intellectual development (Feldman, Case, Towns & Betel, 1985; Garber, 1975). Further, research by Sommer et al. (1993) revealed that many adolescent mothers function in a low-average to mildly mentally handicapped range of intelligence. There are several reasons why adolescent mothers with lower IQs may have children who experience cognitive-intellectual delays during early and middle childhood: (a) genetic transmission (Bouchard & McGue, 1981); (b) insensitive teaching styles and home environments that provide little stimulation and challenge (Yeates, MacPhee, Campbell, & Ramey, 1983); and (c) genetic and environmental factors interact to determine parenting skills and level of readiness to parent (Plomin, Loehlin, & D eFries, 1985).

Investigators have noted an array of personality and adjustment problems common to teenage mothers, including weak ego strength (Babikian & Goldman, 1971), self-devaluation (Kaplan, Smith, & Pokorny, 1979), and a tendency to use denial (Rader, Bekker, Brown, & Richardt, 1978). Leynes (1980) reported that adolescents who keep their babies rather than place them for adoption tend to be psychologically less mature. Leadbeater, Bishop, and Raver (1996) found consistency in depressive symptoms across the first three years postpartum among a sample of inner-city minority teen mothers, with depression related to conflicted mother-toddler interactions and child behavior problems at age three. Teenage parents who are psychologically and socially adjusted should be better prepared to cope with the numerous stressors associated with parenting and, as a consequence, be psychologically available to their children (Passino et al., 1993). Hence, the adjustment of adolescent mothers, as measured prenatally, may be an import ant predictor of the later emotional adjustment of their developing children.

The association between maternal psychological distress in the first year postpartum and later child behavior problems, found in the longitudinal research of Leadbeater and colleagues (Leadbeater & Bishop, 1994; Leadbeater et al., 1996), was attenuated by the presence of emotional support. Social support serves a multitude of functions within the context of parenting and child development, including cognitive guidance, social reinforcement, tangible assistance, social stimulation, and emotional support (Nath, Borkowski, Whitman, & Schellenbach, 1991). The extent to which adolescent mothers are deficient as parents, and their infants at risk for developmental delay, is, in part, a function of the extent of support available, the ability to assimilate that support, and the satisfaction associated with it (Crittenden, 1985; Crnic, Friedrich, & Greenberg, 1983; Dunst, Trivette, & Cross, 1986; Friedrich, Wilturner, & Cohen, 1985). In addition, social support systems may either play a protective role, mitigating t he effects of stress and other risk factors (Nuckolls, Cassel, & Kaplan, 1972; Thoits, 1986), or create additional stress through conflict, interference, or other problematic interactions (Barrera, 1981; Coates & Wortman, 1980).

Wasserman, Brunelli, and Rauh (1990) reported that teen mothers received more social support than did adult mothers, and that the support was most likely to be from grandmothers. Yet, Spieker and Bensley (1994) found that adolescent mothers living alone had better interactions with their one-year-old children than did teens living with their parents or with partners. Grandmother support, however, was associated with secure attachments in children of teen mothers not living with partners. Camp, Holman, and Ridgway (1993) found that social support was unrelated to stress during a teen's pregnancy, but that stress was reduced during the postpartum period with the addition of social support. The complexity surrounding the dimensions and functions of social support led Nath and colleagues (1991) to suggest that it should not be conceptualized as a unitary construct, but rather as multidimensional.

The present study examined relationships among four major classes of prenatal maternal variables--cognitive readiness for parenting, intelligence, personal adjustment, and social support--and intellectual-linguistic development, socioemotional functioning, and adaptive behavior in children at three years of age. It was expected that maternal intelligence and cognitive readiness to parent would be particularly potent predictors of children's cognitive-linguistic development, whereas maternal adjustment and social support would be more strongly associated with children's socioemotional development. More specifically, it was hypothesized that maternal intelligence would predict children's intellectual-linguistic functioning because of genetic transmission from mother to child, and because mothers with higher abilities would tend to create more stimulating environments for their children (Bouchard & McGue, 1981; Yeates et al., 1983). Moreover, it was expected that cognitive readiness to parent would be related t o children's intelligence and language development because more cognitively prepared mothers might utilize their knowledge and child-caring experiences to help themselves become more competent teachers of their children (Whitman et al., 1987). Relationships were expected between maternal adjustment and social support and children's subsequent socioemotional development and adaptive behavior because both prenatal factors are associated with maternal stress and parenting responsivity, which, in turn, are often related to children's emotional and social development (Passino et al., 1993). Finally, the prenatal maternal constructs were analyzed for the most potent predictors of the various child outcomes.



Subjects were drawn from a larger longitudinal study designed to examine development in adolescent mothers and their children over the first ten years of life. Of 223 pregnant adolescents originally involved, 146 (65%) primiparous mothers participated in the project for three years (attrition was primarily due to relocation). However, 25 of these mothers were eliminated from the present analyses due to missing data at the three-year assessment (n = 10) or at the time of the initial interview (n = 15). On most of the important maternal characteristics (age, IQ, education, socioeconomic status, cognitive readiness, intelligence, and social support), mothers who participated in the study for three years were not significantly different from those who dropped out. The exception was adjustment; mothers who remained in the project had significantly fewer internalizing and externalizing problems during the prenatal assessment than did mothers who dropped out.

Adolescents were recruited during the last trimester of their pregnancy through education programs for school-age mothers, social service agencies, hospital clinics, private physicians, and childbirth education classes in South Bend, Indiana (78.5% of the sample), and Aiken, South Carolina (21.5%). Generally, the mothers were of low socioeconomic status as measured by the Hollingshead Index. They had completed a mean of 10.5 years of school prenatally (SD = 1.31), and their mean age at the time of infant's birth was 16.97 years (SD = 1.32) with a range of 13.86 to 19.64 years. Eighty-three percent of the pregnant adolescents lived with one or both parents at the time of the birth of their child; only 10% of the mothers were married or living with a partner. Seventy-one percent of the sample was African-American, 25% Caucasian, and 4% Mexican-American. Participants from Aiken scored slightly lower on measures of intelligence, F(1, 119) = 4.59, p [less than] .05, but higher on measures of personal adjustment, F(1, 119) 5.65, p [less than] .05.

Information obtained from hospital birth records indicated that the infants were generally born in good health. The average birth weight was 3,216 grams, with an average five-minute Apgar score of 8.98. Fifty-five percent of the children were male.

Maternal Predictors

All predictor and outcome measures were examined for deviations from normal distributions and for the presence of outliers. All outliers were recoded to within two standard deviations from the mean in order to control for a small number of extreme scores that could spuriously inflate the results. Distributions were not significantly different from normal unless noted below.

Cognitive readiness for parenting. Cognitive readiness to parent was evaluated through three self-report instruments that examined maternal knowledge of child development, maternal parenting style, and maternal parenting attitudes. The maternal knowledge measure consisted of questions relating to the development of infants and young children; for example, "Most infants can walk alone by (a) 2 months, (b) 9 months, (c) 13 months, (d) 24 months." Questions were developed following review of texts in child development and introductory psychology (Bourne & Ekstrand, 1973; Yussen & Santrock, 1984) and the Expectations subscale of Bavolek's (1985) Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI). Cronbach's alpha for this 40-item scale was .60.

Parenting style was assessed with a scale that evaluated empathy (8 items), attitudes toward the use of physical punishment (10 items), abuse/neglect (5 items), and authoritarianism (4 items). The empathy and physical punishment items were selected from the AAPI. Empathy items measured the degree to which a mother identified with her child's needs and responded appropriately; for example, "Parents will spoil their children by picking them up and comforting them when they cry." Maternal attitudes toward the use of physical punishment were measured through such items as "Children are more likely to learn appropriate behavior when they are spanked for misbehaving." The abuse/neglect items measured endorsement of behaviors reflecting extreme physical punishment and neglect; for example, "It is okay to leave a 3-year-old who is sleeping soundly in a bed alone while a parent walks a friend to the bus stop." The authoritarianism items measured a rigid and harsh orientation to children and parenting; for example, "I believe too much affection and tenderness can harm or weaken a child." All items were rated on a scale ranging from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (5). Cronbach's alpha for this 27-item scale was .90.

Maternal parenting attitudes were measured using a scale that tapped role-reversal (8 items) and child-centeredness (10 items). The role-reversal items were selected from the Role Reversal subscale of the AAPI; for example, "Young children should try to make their parent's life happier." The child-centeredness items were developed for the present study and measured the belief that parenting would be an important and fulfilling aspect of life; for example, "I think that having a baby will be one of the main things that make my life a good one." All items were rated on a scale ranging from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (5). Cronbach's alpha for this 18-item scale was .74.

Overall Cronbach's alpha for the three cognitive readiness scales was .89. The scales were significantly correlated: maternal knowledge and parenting style, r = .42; maternal knowledge and parenting attitudes, r = .44; and parenting style and parenting attitudes, r = .33. They have been found to distinguish adolescent from adult mothers, with adolescent mothers showing lower cognitive readiness. Moreover, lower cognitive readiness has been found to be associated with greater maternal stress and less adaptive parenting styles in adolescent parents (Sommer et al., 1993). For purposes of analysis, the total scores for the three scales were standardized and summed.

Intelligence. The intellectual ability of the teen sample was estimated from scores on the Vocabulary and Block Design subtests of the WISC-R or WAIS-R, according to age at time of initial testing.

Social support. Prenatal social support was assessed by means of a one-hour interview with each teen, which focused on emotional and instrumental support from various sources. Social support variables were derived from questions regarding perception of closeness, emotional support, financial support, and child care from mother, siblings, extended family, friends, and partner. Responses were rated on a 5-point Likert scale (ranging from not any to considerable), reflecting the degree of support teens expected to receive (by source and type). Three composite social support variables were created: support expected from the primary partner plus support from friends, support expected from mother, and support expected from extended family and siblings. Cronbach's alphas for the three variables were .78, .79, and .80, respectively. All three social support composites had positively skewed distributions.

Personal adjustment. The Youth Self Report (YSR) was employed to assess the personal adjustment of the pregnant adolescents. The YSR was developed and standardized by Achenbach and Edelbrock (1987) to obtain reports from children and adolescents (ages 11 to 18) about their own competencies and behavior. The Behavior Problems Scale of the YSR is designed to measure emotional and behavioral adjustment. Items are scored on a 3-point scale (not true, somewhat true, or often true). Two broad, empirically derived factors represent internalizing (somatic complaints, withdrawal, and depression) and externalizing (delinquency and aggression) problems. Test-retest reliability coefficients have been found to range from .61 to .77 (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1987). Criterion validity has been established; adolescents referred to mental health providers have been found to score significantly higher (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1987).

Measures of Child Development

Stanford-Binet. The Stanford-Binet (S-B), Form L-M, was utilized to measure intellectual development at three years. Although a more recent fourth edition of the Stanford-Binet was available, Form L-M was chosen because research has suggested that it has greater sensitivity to lower functioning in the younger age range (Wilson, 1992). Excellent test-retest reliability coefficients have been reported, ranging from .90 to .98, depending on intelligence level. Additionally, moderate correlations with school performance (ranging from .40 to .50) have demonstrated reasonable predictive validity.

Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test--Revised. The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R; Dunn & Dunn, 1981) was also used to assess cognitive abilities at three years. The PPVT-R was designed to measure receptive language in individuals aged two and a half years through adulthood. Alternate-form reliabilities have been computed, ranging from .74 to .89 (Sattler, 1988). Additionally, numerous studies have correlated the PPVT-R with intelligence (range = .30 to .86) to establish concurrent validity of the PPVT-R as a measure of cognitive ability.

Social-emotional development. The Behavioral Style Questionnaire (BSQ; McDevitt & Carey, 1978) was administered to assess temperament at three years of age. The BSQ provides a maternal evaluation of international style of children aged three to seven years. The instrument was based on the conceptualization of temperament introduced by Thomas, Chess, and Birch (1968) in the New York Longitudinal Study. Items assess nine dimensions of temperament: activity, rhythmicity, approach, adaptability, intensity, mood, persistence, distractibility, and threshold. The measure was standardized on a sample of 350 subjects from a private pediatric practice. Overall test-retest reliability was .89 (.67 to .94 for the subscales) and internal consistency was .84. In the present study, subscale scores particularly relevant to the "difficult" temperament (rhythmicity, adaptability, approach, intensity, and mood) were summed to form a composite score.

The Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL; Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983) was also utilized to evaluate children's adjustment at three years. The CBCL is a parent rating scale that assesses behavioral problems and competencies for children ages 2--3. Items are rated on a 3-point scale (0 = not true, 1 = somewhat or sometimes true, 2 very true or often true). Two broad-based scales are formed from the items: the Internalizing Scale evaluates depressed, anxious, and withdrawn behaviors, and the Externalizing Scale assesses aggressive and delinquent behaviors.

Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Adaptive behavior was assessed using three of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS): Communication, Daily Living Skills, and Socialization. Internal consistency scores of .91, .91, and .88, respectively, have been reported (Sparrow, Balla, & Cicchetti, 1984). The composite score was formed by adding the standard scores.


Data collection occurred twice: during the last trimester of pregnancy (Phase I) and when the children were approximately three years of age (Phase II). During Phase I, maternal demographic information was collected and cognitive readiness for parenting, intelligence, personal adjustment, and prenatal social support were assessed. Birth information, including weight, length, head circumference, gestational age, ponderal index, and Apgar score, was obtained from hospital records. During Phase II, assessments of child temperament, social-emotional functioning, intelligence, and language were obtained.


Descriptive Information

Mean scores and standard deviations for children's intellectual-linguistic development, socioemotional functioning, and adaptive behavior are presented in Table 1. Of 121 children, 53 had Stanford-Binet scores between 85 and 110. Of these, 18 had borderline or clinically deviant CBCL scores. Twenty-two children scored below 70 on the Stanford-Binet, 9 of whom also displayed serious behavior problems. An additional 14 children were within the borderline range in terms of IQ (70 to 85) and scored low on adaptive behavior; 6 of these children also had serious adjustment problems. Only 34 scored within normal ranges on IQ, the CBCL, and adaptive behavior; that is, approximately 28% of the sample was in the normal range of development on all three outcome measures.

Mothers, much like their children, showed below-average intelligence (M = 86.99, SD = 12.03), with 25% scoring below 80. Additionally, a sizable number of mothers were in the borderline and clinically deviant ranges on the YSR; the mean score for the combined Internalizing and Externalizing scales was 26.46 (SD = 11.96). Most teens were living in poverty but thought that they would receive a considerable amount of social support from their mothers (M = 4.09, SD = .93), from their partners and friends (M = 7.17, SD = 1.35), and from siblings and other family members (M = 6.20, SD = 1.77).

Correlations among the maternal and child variables are presented in Table 2. It should be noted that cognitive readiness for parenting was significantly correlated with both maternal intelligence and personal adjustment. The three social support measures were also modestly correlated. Child outcome measures, in general, showed a stronger pattern of intercorrelations than did the maternal predictors.

Relationships Between Prenatal Maternal Functioning and Three-Year Child Outcomes

It was hypothesized that maternal intelligence and cognitive readiness to parent would be particularly potent predictors of children's cognitive-linguistic development, whereas maternal adjustment and social support would be more strongly associated with children's socioemotional development. In order to examine differential relationships among predictor and outcome variables, beta weights associated with maternal variables were compared in regression analyses predicting cognitive development, socioemotional functioning, and adaptive behavior. A variable was considered important if the beta weight was statistically significant after controlling for all of the other variables in the regression equation.

As can be seen in Table 3, the major hypotheses were generally supported. Maternal intelligence was a strong predictor of children's cognitive-linguistic development, and maternal adjustment significantly predicted children's socioemotional development. Cognitive readiness, however, only predicted adaptive behavior. Various sources of social support were related to four of the five child outcomes: support from family was negatively associated with cognitive-linguistic functioning, support from partner/friends was negatively associated with temperament, and support from mother was positively associated with adaptive behavior.

To explore relationships among prenatal maternal predictors and child development in greater depth, multiple regression analyses were conducted with maternal subtest scores. This revealed the total and unique variance associated with the prediction of the five child outcome measures.

Cognitive-Linguistic Development

First, the relative contributions of maternal Verbal versus Performance IQ in the prediction of the children's cognitive-linguistic development were examined. Results revealed that maternal Performance IQ was a more important predictor than maternal Verbal IQ. When Performance and Verbal subtest scores were entered simultaneously with the other maternal predictors (i.e., cognitive readiness, personal adjustment, and social support), Performance IQ was significantly associated with Stanford-Binet scores (beta = .32, [r.sup.2] = .09), whereas Verbal IQ was not (beta = .05).

Similar to the results for children's intelligence, regression analyses revealed that maternal Performance IQ was a more important predictor of PPVT-R scores than was maternal Verbal IQ. When the Performance and Verbal subtest scores were entered simultaneously with the other predictors, Performance IQ was significantly associated with PPVT-R scores (beta .36, [r.sup.2] - .11), whereas Verbal IQ was not (beta = -.06).

Socioemotional Functioning

Also examined was the relative contribution of the two components of maternal adjustment, Internalization and Externalization, in the prediction of children's socioemotional development. When Internalization and Externalization scores were entered simultaneously with the other maternal predictors, Internalization was significantly associated with children's adjustment (beta = .28, [r.sup.2] = .06), whereas Externalization was not (beta = .12).

Additional regression analyses were conducted to determine the relative contributions of maternal Internalization and Externalization in predicting child temperament. Although the combination of Internalizing and Externalizing scores was a significant predictor of temperament, neither component alone accounted for significant amounts of the total variance in temperament.

Adaptive Behavior

Children of adolescent mothers who were more cognitively prepared for parenting generally had children with higher levels of adaptive behavior. Similar to previous analyses, we examined whether the components of cognitive readiness contributed unique variance to children's adaptive behavior scores. When the components of Knowledge, Attitude, and Style were entered into the regression equation along with the other maternal predictors, Style accounted for unique variance (beta = .22, [r.sup.2] = .04), whereas Knowledge and Attitude did not.

Race, Gender, and Socioeconomic Influences

A two-step procedure was used to examine the effects of race, gender, and socioeconomic status on the five child outcomes. First, the direct relationship between race, gender, and socioeconomic status was examined using ANOVA (for race and gender) and correlational analysis (for socioeconomic status). Second, moderating effects of race, gender, and socioeconomic status on the reported relationships between the maternal predictors and each of the five child outcomes were examined through a series of multiple regression analyses. To examine the moderating effects of race on child IQ, the six maternal predictors were entered along with race, followed by six interaction terms (i.e., the interaction of race with each predictor). The same procedure was followed in examining the moderating influences of socioeconomic status and gender. Results for each predictor were examined after controlling for all of the other maternal predictor variables.

Only Caucasian and African-American children were included in analyses of racial differences. Caucasian children performed better than African-American children on the Stanford-Binet, F(1, 114) = 10.87, p [less than] .01, and on the PPVT-R, F(1, 114) = 27.60, p [less than] .001. However, these differences were accounted for by the maternal predictor variables in the regression model. In contrast, race accounted for significant variance in socioemotional functioning, as assessed by the CBCL, even after the other maternal predictors and interactions had been controlled. Overall, African-American children exhibited marginally higher levels of adjustment problems (LSM = 26.50) than did Caucasian children (LSM = 23.93); F(l, 101) = 3.41, p = .07.

Since race interacted with social support to influence children's socioemotional functioning, regression analyses were conducted separately for each race. The overall model did not significantly predict the socioemotional functioning of the Caucasian children. However, four of the six maternal predictors significantly influenced socioemotional functioning in the African-American sample, accounting for 35% of the variation in outcome. In addition to the significant effects of personal adjustment and social support from partner and friends found for the entire sample, greater support expected from siblings and extended family was significantly associated with more adjustment problems (beta = .34, [r.sup.2] = .13) and greater cognitive readiness for parenting was significantly associated with fewer adjustment problems (beta = --.23, [r.sup.2] = .06) for the African-American children.

Although child outcomes did not differ significantly as a direct result of gender, gender became a significant factor after controlling for the maternal predictors in the regression model. Overall, differences were found between boys and girls on receptive language, F(1, 107) = 4.69, p [less than] .05, socioemotional functioning, F(1, 107) = 5.83, p [less than] .05, and temperament, F(1, 107) = 6.35, p [less than] .05. After controlling for maternal predictors and their interactions with gender, boys scored higher on the PPVT-R, had more behavior problems, but had somewhat easier temperaments. In addition, there were several significant interactions between maternal predictors and gender, which were followed up with regression analyses conducted separately for boys and girls.

Gender significantly interacted with social support from partner and friends to predict Stanford-Binet, PPVT-R, and CBCL scores. In each case, social support was unrelated to outcomes for boys, but significantly, and positively, related to outcomes for girls. The regression model accounted for 31% of the variance in girls' S-B scores, 23% of the variance in their PPVT-R scores, and 29% of the variance in their CBCL scores. In other words, the more the adolescent mother expected her partner and friends to provide support, the higher her daughter scored on cognitive development and the fewer behavior problems she exhibited.

A different pattern of interactions was found for child temperament. Gender interacted with maternal psychosocial functioning and social support expected from the child's grandmother to influence child temperament. When regression analyses were conducted separately for boys and girls, the model was only significant for boys, F(13, 107) = 3.76, p [less than].01. Thirty-seven percent of the variance in boys' temperament was accounted for by maternal psychosocial functioning (beta = .49, [r.sup.2] = .22), social support from grandmother (beta = .24, [r.sup.2] .07), and maternal IQ (beta = -.28, [r.sup.2] = .07). This finding suggests that boys had more difficult temperaments if their mothers were not well adjusted, had lower intelligence, and expected to receive social support from their own mothers.

Interactions between socioeconomic status and the maternal predictors were generally nonsignificant, with the exception of a marginally significant interaction of socioeconomic status and cognitive readiness in the prediction of PPVT-R scores, F(1, 104) 3.l0, p = .08. Although other interactions with socioeconomic status were nonsignificant, the addition of socioeconomic status to the regression model altered the pattern of several major results shown in Table 3. For both Stanford-Binet scores and PPVT-R scores, the strong association with maternal IQ was eliminated with the addition of socioeconomic status.


The present results suggest that, by three years of age, many children of adolescent mothers may be at high risk for atypical and perhaps dysfunctional development. Less than 30% of the entire sample--which was generally healthy at birth--showed normal cognitive development, emotional functioning, and adaptive behavior at three years of age. Not only were many of the children delayed in one aspect of their development, but a sizable percentage of children displayed signs of both cognitive delays and poor adjustment. Hence, these data provide further evidence of the problematic developmental trajectories first identified by Broman's (1981) and later by Brooks-Gunn and Furstenberg's (1986) longitudinal studies of children with adolescent mothers. These earlier studies revealed a greater than expected incidence of intellectual delays and/or behavioral disturbances during adolescence in the offspring of teenage mothers. The present data help clarify the nature and extent of the developmental problems that someti mes confront children of adolescent mothers, and reveal their very early onset.

Although previous research has noted the important role of maternal intelligence, cognitive readiness for parenting, social support, and personal adjustment in accounting for individual differences in child development, few investigations have systematically utilized multivariate methodologies to assess their relative and combined impact on different domains of child development. The results of this study suggest, not surprisingly, that maternal paths of influence are different for cognitive development, socioemotional functioning, and adaptive behavior. Maternal IQ, especially its Performance component as defined by Block Design scores, was found to be the best single predictor of children's intelligence and receptive language. In contrast, maternal adjustment--especially maternal internalizing problems such as somatic symptoms--was the best predictor of children's socio-emotional adjustment. Cognitive readiness to parent--especially maternal parenting style--along with support from the child's grandmother, predicted adaptive behavior.

Much like their children, mothers in the present study were themselves generally below average in intelligence and were experiencing adjustment problems. It should be noted, however, that relatively few mothers reported the use of drugs, or even moderate use of alcohol, during pregnancy; these reports are consistent with the fact that few infants in the sample had medical complications, including low birthweight. In many respects, the present results are likely generalizable to many teen mothers in small towns and rural areas. However, since there was some selective attrition of young mothers with higher levels of adjustment problems, our results many underestimate the extent of potential problems in the children of adolescent mothers. The results may also underestimate the extent of problems in inner-city urban mothers, who are often trapped by poverty and whose lives may be compromised by drugs or alcohol. These young mothers might experience more extreme parental problems and perhaps be expected to parent children who themselves experience more extensive developmental delays.

Antecedents of Intellectual and Linguistic Functioning

It was expected that four prenatal maternal constructs--personal adjustment, IQ, cognitive readiness for parenting, and social support--would be related to children's intelligence and language, with maternal IQ and cognitive readiness being the most highly predictive. The hypothesized relationship between prenatal maternal intelligence and children's intelligence and receptive language at age three was supported. Children with mothers of average intellectual ability performed better on the Stanford-Binet and PPVT-R at three years of age than did children with mothers of lower intelligence.

The relationship between maternal IQ and children's intellectual development may be direct, through inheritance, as well as indirect--with teens of average intelligence or above providing more stimulating and responsive environments for their children as compared with low-IQ mothers. It is interesting to note that most of the predictive power of maternal IQ was associated with the Block Design subtest of the WAIS, which is more a measure of fluid intelligence than of crystallized intelligence (Horn, 1968).

Although cognitive readiness to parent was significantly correlated with both of the child cognitive measures, it did not account for a significant amount of unique variance when included in the regression model with the other maternal predictors. Maternal cognitive readiness predicted children's intelligence through its shared relationship with maternal IQ. It may be that mothers with average intelligence are likely to develop a broader knowledge base about their children's development and to utilize this knowledge as they parent, thereby facilitating their children's intellectual growth (O'Callaghan, 1995; Miller et al., 1996). Although these data suggest that maternal IQ is a better predictor of children's cognitive development than is cognitive readiness, the components of readiness to parent are more malleable and hence more appropriate targets for prevention and remediation programs.

The predicted impact of cognitive readiness to parent on child. development was based on the assumption that the adolescent mother would make parenting decisions guided by her attitudes toward parenting and her knowledge of child development. The reality, however, for many teen mothers was that they were not the primary decision maker. Often the child's grandmother, either in conjunction with the young mother or in opposition to her, was the primary caregiver. In addition, other family members (aunts, cousins) may have provided advice, suggestions, and directives on how the infant should be raised.

Social support, either alone or in interaction with race and gender, influenced all five of the children's developmental outcomes, supporting the considerable literature that suggests that social support exerts both direct effects on the children of adolescents and effects mediated though parenting skills, beliefs, and practices (Nath et al., 1991). Boys' language development, but not girls', appeared to be negatively affected by emotional, financial, and other material support from a variety of family members. Although it may seem beneficial to have support from a number of different people, the results do not support this contention. In fact, the results suggest that support from a variety of extended family members tends to be associated with lower cognitive and linguistic scores.

A small number of children (about 15) were considered intellectually resilient, in that their Stanford-Binet scores were higher than expected considering their mothers' low IQ and other prenatal maternal characteristics. These mothers tended to be Caucasian, and to have more education and fewer additional children as compared with mothers of nonresilient children. These factors may have buffered the effects of low prenatal maternal intelligence, in that their children's environments may have become more stimulating and enriching with time, with more individualized attention provided.

Antecedents of Socioemotional Functioning

As hypothesized, children with fewer behavior problems and easier temperaments tended to have mothers who were also well-adjusted and who received support from their partners and friends. The model was stronger for African-American children where cognitive readiness to parent contributed positively to healthy socioemotional functioning.

Pregnant adolescents experiencing somatic or depressive symptoms have a tendency to rear children who experience internalizing or externalizing problems, or both (Leadbeater et al., 1996). The analysis of the predictive components of children's adjustment revealed that maternal internalizing problems were more influential than were externalizing problems. This finding is consistent with Leadbeater and Bishop's (1994) results regarding behavior problems in children of disadvantaged adolescent mothers: Not only were a significant number of preschool children rated as having behavior problems, but a significant number of their mothers had depressive symptoms.

The relationship between mother and child adjustment can be understood within the context of the growing research suggesting that maternal psychological resources contribute to parenting competency (Stevens, 1984). For example, measures of ego development, locus of control, and negative affectivity have been found to distinguish mothers who provide nurturant, responsive, and nonpunitive infant care from those who demonstrate nonoptimal parenting skills. One possible mechanism for the transmission of adjustment has been proposed by Vondra and Belsky (1993): "The significance of early relationships appears to rest in dynamic cognitive and affective patterns, internalized by the child, that develop in response to, and are organized around, repeated affective experiences within the family" (p. 22). It may be that the relationship of maternal adjustment to child adjustment is mediated by parenting behaviors, such as sensitivity and contingent responsivity. As psychological resources increase, so too does a mother 's ability to provide sensitive and responsive care to her child. Emotional unavailability and self-preoccupation--characteristics of normal adolescents as well as adults with depression or other psychological instabilities--can interfere with a mother's ability to be attentive and responsive to her child's cues, thereby delaying socioemotional growth.

However, social support from the young mother's partner or close friends may compensate, to some extent, for maternal adjustment problems. As expected, the predictive value of social support depended on the source of the support and interacted with other factors (Nath et al., 1991). Relationships between socioemotional functioning and social support were stronger for the African-American teens, and were generally stronger, and more positive, for girls than for boys. Expected social support from partner or close friends contributed significantly and positively to girls', but not boys', adjustment. In contrast, but similar to the results of the IQ analyses, expected support from extended family had a negative influence on boys' socioemotional functioning; the higher the expected support from extended family, the greater the behavior problems at age three.

The pattern of results predicting temperament at age three was similar to that for behavior problems, and supportive of the original hypotheses. However, the effects were complicated by interactions between social support and gender. Consistent with results for child adjustment, expected social support from partner and close friends contributed significantly and positively to easier temperaments for girls, but not for boys. In contrast, social support expected from the child's grandmother was predictive of more difficult temperaments for boys. It is possible that the support from partner and friends enhances the capacity of young mothers to provide appropriate care for their children, while the grandmother and other extended family members may compete with the young mother for the care and affection of the child. Thus, intervention with young mothers and their families may need to deal with conflicting and competing relationships within the family system.

Antecedents of Adaptive Behavior

Overall, variations in adaptive behavior of three-year-old children were not predicted as well as variations in the other child outcomes; only 13% of the variance was accounted for by the maternal predictors. In contrast to cognitive-linguistic development and socioemotional functioning, neither maternal IQ nor maternal adjustment was related to adaptive behavior. Rather, mothers who had a more empathic style tended to have children with more adaptive behavior. Perhaps the teen mother learned this parenting style from her own mother, reinforcing the positive contribution of grandmother support in regard to children's adaptive behavior.

Implications for Theory, Research, and Intervention

Caution is warranted regarding the generalizabiity of the findings. The adolescent mothers in this study were of lower socioeconomic status and had unstable or low-level jobs. Based on the methodology employed, it is unclear whether the observed relationships are unique to adolescent parents or are related more generally to all mothers living in poverty.

Also unclear from the findings is the extent to which the patterns of mother-child relationships are the same for African-American and Caucasian adolescents. Initial differences found between the racial groups on intelligence and language development were explained by differences in maternal intelligence and support from extended family. However, it was clear that the regression model was more predictive of African-American children's behavior problems than it was of Caucasian children's problems. The smaller size of the Caucasian sample reduced the ability to detect differential patterns across ethnic groups. Since 70% of the adolescent mothers were Africa-American, the results could be more descriptive of relationships that exist within that population.

The complexity of the effects of social support (discussed by Nath et al., 1991) were confirmed. Social support was not a unitary construct exerting a uniformly positive effect on outcomes. Support from partner and friends was the only consistently positive type of support. In contrast, support from siblings and extended family was consistently negative. Support from grandmother was positive or negative depending on the child's gender and the developmental outcome. Spieker and Bensley (1994) and Contreras, Mangelsdorf, Diener, and Rhodes (1995) have shown that a "supportive" grandmother can sometimes hinder the emergence of good parenting skills in adolescent mothers. The present findings also support previous research that has found social support to be more relevant to the development of African-American children.

It should be noted that measurement issues may explain, in part, the different predictors of cognitive versus socioemotional development found in this study. The measures of socioemotional development (the Behavioral Style Questionnaire and the Child Behavior Checklist) are dependent upon the mother's perceptions of her child. It has been argued that assessments that involve maternal ratings of children may reflect maternal characteristics as much as the objective behaviors of the child. Several investigators have questioned the validity of these types of rating scales, noting the influence of maternal depression and anxiety levels on assessments of child temperament (cf. Vaughn, Bradley, Joffe, Seifer, & Barglow, 1987). Thus, the relationship of maternal adjustment to child socioemotional development found here must be investigated further.

From an applied perspective, the importance of this research lies in its recognition of the early appearance of intellectual and adjustment problems in the lives of children born to adolescent mothers. If not addressed immediately, these problems often lead to school failure, delinquency, and mild mental retardation (cf. Broman, 1981; Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn, & Morgan, 1991).

The ability to identify prenatal factors that influence later cognitive and emotional development has important implications for both prevention and intervention. It is essential that children at-risk for developmental problems be identified before such problems fully emerge and become intransigent.

Through understanding the maternal and social-environmental factors that influence development, intervention programs--implemented early in life or prenatally--can prevent or ameliorate a variety of cognitive and emotional deficits (cf. Ramey & Ramey, 1990). Based on the results of the present study, the main target of intervention would be adolescents at elevated risk for problematic parenting, specifically those who have low levels of fluid intelligence, as well as somatic or depressive symptomatology during pregnancy. If conservative cutoff points for indicators of these two factors (such as the Block Design or Ravens Matrix and a test of depression, such as the Beck Depression Inventory) are used prenatally to identify adolescents in need of intervention, the chances of misidentification are low. For adolescents with both low IQ and prenatal depression, intervention should start early, be intensive, and last until the child begins Head Start or kindergarten (see Ramey & Ramey, 1992).

This research was supported by NIH grant HD-26456. The first and fifth authors were supported by NIH training grant HD-07184. Kristen S. Sommer was at the University of Notre Dame when this study was conducted.

Kristen S. Sommer, Quachita Baptist University.

John G. Borkowski, Dawn M. Gondoli, Jennifer Burke, and Scott E. Maxwell, University of Notre Dame.

Keri Weed, University of South Carolina-Aiken.


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 Mean Scores and Standard Deviations for Child Outcomes
 Inteligence (S-B) 82.01 12.65
 Language (PPVT-R) 76.30 15.10
 Adjustment (CBCL) [*] 27.38 11.81
Temperament (BSQ) 17.33 1.70
Adaptive Behavior (VABS) 285.38 25.53
(*.)Composite of Internalizing and Externalizing Scales
 Intercorrelations Between Maternal and ChildVariables
 Maternal Variables
 Maternal Cognitive Personal P/F Mother Family
 IQ Readiness Adjustment Support Support Support
Maternal 1.0 -.53 [**] -.11 .15+ -.02 .07
Cognitive 1.0 -.29 [**] .13 .01 -.04
Personal 1.0 -.14 -.11 -.10
P/F 1.0 .19 [*] .27 [**]
Mother 1.0 .22 [*]
Family 1.0
P/F = Partner/Friends
 Child Variables
Maternal .39 [**] .34 [**] -.22 [*] -.25 [**] .13
Cognitive .29 [**] .29 [**] -.30 [**] -.29 [**] .26 [**]
Personal .03 -.20 [*] .40 [**] .29 [**] -.18 [+]
P/F .07 .14 -.14 -.24 [**] .12
Mother -.05 .09 -.01 .00 .23
Family -.17 [+] .18 [*] .10 -.02 -.01
Child IQ 1.0 .66 [**] -.28 [**] -.23 [**] .44 [**]
PPVT-R 1.0 -.40 [**] -.33 [**] .28 [**]
CBCL 1.0 .59 [**] -.17 [+]
BSQ 1.0 -.27 [**]
(+.)p [less than] .10,
(*.)p [less than] .05,
(**.)p [less than] .01
 Beta Weight Associated With the Maternal Predictors
 of Children's Cognitive and Socioemotional
 Development and Adaptive Behavior
 Child Child Child
 Cognitive- Social- Adaptive
 Linguistic Emotional Behavior
Maternal .33 [**] .28 [**] -.11 -.12 .00
Cognitive .12 .08 -.12 -.13 .22 [*]
Personal .09 -.15 [+] .35 [**] .23 [*] -.09
Support from .08 .12 -.10 -.20 [*] .06
Support from -.01 .11 .02 .05 .22 [*]
Support from -.20 [*] -.27 [**] .16 [+] .05 -.07

Note. Higher CBCL scores are associated with more problematic adjustment; higher BSQ scores reflect more problematic temperament.

(+.)p [less than].10, (*.) p [less than].05, (**.) p[less than].01
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Author:Sommer, Kristen S.; Whitman, Thomas L.; Borkowski, John G.; Gondoli, Dawn M.; Burke, Jennifer; Maxwe
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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2000

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