STEPPING UP TO MOTHERHOOD AMONG INNER-CITY TEENS

Authors


  • Arielle F. Shanok, Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University; Lisa Miller, Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University.

  • This study was funded by National Institute of Mental Health grant number 5K08MH01649-03, awarded to the second author. Many thanks are due to participating clinicians Drs. Merav Gur and Christine Fernandez and to consulting Professor of Anthropology Charles Harrington and Professor of Organizational Psychology Debra Noumair. We are also particularly grateful to the young mothers and mothers-to-be for their trusting and candid involvement.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Arielle F. Shanok, Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Room 328 Horace Mann, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027. E-mail: arielleshanok@yahoo.com

Abstract

This mixed-methods, context-oriented study explored transitions to motherhood among pregnant and newly parenting inner-city teenagers (n= 80) attending an alternative public school. Additionally, a novel research approach was assessed. Using data from a 2-year psychotherapy trial, inductive content analyses of therapy sessions and post hoc interviews of clinicians were synthesized with questionnaires and other more traditional data sources to develop a strength-focused understanding of prominent life themes, as experienced by participants. Results suggested that, although few teens had planned to have a baby, a large majority were pleased to discover their pregnancies. A heightened sense of purpose emerged, connected with drastically increased safety-conscious behaviors. Still, public and familial alienation was common. Grandmothers and additional female mentors became central, and their support of the pregnancy was protective against teen mothers' depression. The research technique assessed in this study provided broad-ranging information with substantial validity and minimal time and expense.

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