Beyond Today and Pass Tomorrow: Self-Efficacy Among African-American Adolescent Mothers



Abstract: In the 21st century, African-American youth continue to be negatively defined by the media, by educators, and even some youth-focused organizations as either super-predators or super-breeders. Black teenage mothers, in particular, are held responsible for poverty, escalating school dropout rates, child abuse and neglect, welfare dependence, despair and crime. Despite the persistence of these negative portrayals, researchers who strive to understand the lives of African-American girls find that there are both subtle and overt forms of resistance to negative stereotyping as well as nuanced and creative strategies for self-definition. This paper describes a research project that allowed some brief glimpses into the lives of teenage mothers in two low-income communities. I discuss expressions of self-efficacy that emerged in interviews with these young women and the critical need for youth programs in low-income communities. I also include some programmatic suggestions that are specific to teen mothers and discuss the importance of feminist anthropology in research on community-based youth programs.