Parenting teens face many unique challenges. These challenges will no doubt take a toll on their mental health. Children of teen parents also face potential mental health challenges.
Although pregnancy rates among teens are falling, it is still imperative teenage parents and their children receive the care they need to maintain good mental health.
Empowering teenage parents and their children with proper resources and support is critical for both parents and children to be able to live positive, fulfilling lives.
- Parenting teens face a variety of stigmas that can lead to problems with mental and physical health.
- Teen mothers are more likely to suffer abuse or deal with trauma. This may be the reason they have higher rates of PTSD and substance use.
- The mental health of young fathers has been on the decline recently. Stigmas may be the reason many young fathers don’t seek help.
- Children born to teenage parents are more likely to suffer mental health issues, perform poorly in school, and become adolescent parents themselves.
- Many programs designed to support adolescent parents are missing and mental health component. Programs that do address mental health issues tend to lead to more success.
Mental Health Struggles of Teen Moms
Parenting teens face many challenges that adult parents or teens without children do not have to worry about. These extra challenges or unique circumstances can only increase the likelihood of becoming a teenage parent, and they can also take an incredible toll on me mental and physical health of adolescent parents.
Teen mothers are particularly at risk for developing depression or other mental health issues.
Stigmas Can Lead to Mental Health Issues
Despite the decline in teenage pregnancy rates, there are still strong stigmas surrounding teenage parents.
These stigmas suggest:
- Teens must be unmotivated
- Have many sexual partners
- Are morally corrupt
- Will become bad parents
These stigmas certainly are not true. However, they can lead to a variety of mental and physical issues.
- Poor medical care for both parents and children
- social isolation
The negative impact of these stigmas can cause teen moms to develop a variety of mental health conditions.
Teen Mothers May Be More Likely to Develop PTSD
Teen mothers are more likely to encounter trauma and even violence. Exposure to these negative events increases the risk a teenage mother will develop PTSD.
A recent study revealed teen mothers have suffered seven times the abuse or maltreatment when compared to the rest of the population. Research indicates many teen mothers will experience traumatic events, including:
- Physical violence
- Abuse from a parent or family member
- Jail or prison
- Traumatic loss
These abuses and experiences lead to an alarming level of toxic stress in young people who were part of this study. Many childhood mothers have dealt with more than four ACE’s or adverse childhood experiences. Teenage mothers are also 200 to 300% more likely to be abused at the hands of their partner or a family member.
This study also helps dispel some of the stigmas teen mothers confront. Most teen mothers don’t exhibit the negative stereotypes, there are actually in need of behavioral health treatment. They are sick not simply bad people.
Young Mothers and Substance Abuse
Even though we know teenage moms are more likely to struggle with substance abuse, these statistics can be tricky to nail down.
Often substance use is stopped during pregnancy and resumed after the birth of the child.
Studies and medical questionnaires also have widely varying results. As you can imagine, many mothers hide or downplay their substance use.
How to Treat Those Challenges
Prevention is a major component of addressing the mental health issues of teen moms. However, here is no one-size-fits-all approach for prevention.
Current state and federally funded prevention programs have been successful. The rate of teenage pregnancy is at its lowest point in decades. This is definitely a major victory for those who provide education and care to parenting teens.
Success in recent decades gives communities and care providers a victory worth celebrating.
However, teenage pregnancies still present many challenges for teen parents, families, communities, and our country as a whole.
Efforts to fight teenage pregnancy absolutely need to continue and be strengthened as much as possible from everything we have learned in past decades.
The most effective methods of caring for teen mothers requires a combination of pregnancy prevention strategies and programs that provide mental health support.
The Value of Mental Health Support Programs
Mental health care or support is often missing from programs designed to support teenage mothers. Many programs focus on tangible career or life accomplishments like finding a job or housing.
These types of tangible accomplishments are absolutely critical to teenage mothers and their families. If left unmet, these unfulfilled needs can we to mental as well as physical health concerns.
However, addressing these needs without addressing the need for good mental health care and support can also lead to problems with mental and physical health for both mothers and their children.
Teen mothers are significantly more likely to develop postpartum depression than moms or families.
Mental health support programs may help to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies overall. Studies have shown a link between mental health diagnosis and an increased risk of teenage pregnancy.
Adolescent women with mental health struggles are almost 3 times more likely to become pregnant than their peers without mental health challenges.
While the exact cause remains unclear, some experts believe the increase in pregnancy rates stems from impulsive behaviors.
Unfortunately, it is common for individuals living with mental illnesses to lack close or intimate connections. The desire of a young woman to create a close or intimate connection may lead to impulsive or risky sexual behavior.
Mental Health Challenges for Teen Fathers
Believe it or not, the mental health of fathers of all ages has been on the decline recently. This could be because more and more fathers are now taking on roles and responsibilities they would not have in the not-too-distant past.
Also, let’s remember, men typically aren’t the greatest when it comes to seeking healthcare, particularly for mental health.
Because men are often reluctant to reach out for mental health treatment, they just there aren’t as many options available to them as there are for women.
It Can Be Just As Difficult for Men
Making the leap from child to father is a difficult challenge. Most research focuses on how adolescent pregnancies impact the health of mothers.
If we take a look at recent research, it seems the transition to fatherhood can be just as challenging as the transition to motherhood.
Managing the challenges of teenage fatherhood is somewhat similar to teenage mothers. Focusing on the accomplishment of tangibles is great. But, we must keep in mind the mental health of the father.
Mental health treatment for fathers has an added layer of complexity.
There are very strong stigmas surrounding men’s mental health.
It’s often considered a sign of weakness or of being less of a man to acknowledge your needs for mental health care and support.
One of the most important things our society can do is to work toward dismantling the stigmas surrounding mental health and men.
Potential Mental Health Problems of Children of Parenting Teens
Children of teenage parents often have more physical, mental, and socioeconomic struggles to overcome.
The extra challenges faced by children of teen parents can likely be traced back to several potential causes.
It’s likely parenting teens may lack maturity, have lower socioeconomic status, and less education. Parents’ lack of maturity can affect children in a variety of ways. Parents may not know where to turn for advice or how to properly care for their children’s physical and mental health. This can result in children having an emotional, behavioral, or intellectual deficit.
These deficits may become more significant over time. Differences can be noticed at the preschool level and elementary school stages and may become even more severe by the time the child enters high school.
Statistically Speaking, 50% of African-American children born to adolescent mothers are held back in school. However, only 20% of children born to older mothers were held back.
The intellectual effects of being born to a teenage mother are more long-lasting than simply failing a grade. Research suggests the children are likely to have an IQ of about a three-point lower than a child born to older mothers.
The potential hardships of being born to a teenage mother extends beyond lower IQ scores, and socioeconomic challenges. Children of teenage mothers are much more likely to become teen mothers themselves. In a study of children of adolescent moms from Great Britain and the United States, it was found that children of mothers under 20 were twice as likely to become teen moms themselves.
There are many suspected reasons for this teen mom trend. Researchers suspect children of parenting teens aren’t parented as well as other children. Children born to adolescent parents may not receive the same educational opportunities as children of older parents. This includes education about sexual health and developing positive relationships.
Children of young parenting teens are also more likely to experiment or engage in risky sexual behavior.
The Best Way to Support Children of Parenting Teens
Selectively targeted intervention programs are one of the best approaches to helping children of adolescent parents live a healthy, productive, and filling life.
The first step is to identify children who are potentially at the greatest risk. Next, programs should be implemented to address physical, educational, and psychological needs.
As we mentioned above, many programs target key areas such as education and physical health. However, many more resources are needed to address the mental health needs of children raised by parenting teens.
Parenting teens can be a very difficult journey for both parents and their children. These challenges can be overcome. The key is to rely on conventional resources and to ensure everyone in the family has the mental health support they need.
If you or someone you know is a teen parent who could use resources, support, and guidance please reach out now through email or phone at (618) 482-7330.