Parenting Trajectories of Early Childbearers and Associated Factors
The current study explored the longitudinal heterogeneity of early childbearers’ use of spanking, positive parenting, their dual use, and associated factors over child ages 1, 3, and 5, using data from a subsample (N = 769) of young mothers (<= 19) from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Mothers reported the frequency of spanking in the past month on a 5-point scale; positive parenting was the average number of times per week mothers engaged in three types of verbal parenting activities. Descriptive and risk factors included mother’s race, high child emotionality, mother considered an abortion, maternal depression, high parenting stress, low maternal verbal ability, maternal AOD use, high fertility, public assistance receipt, low income, unsafe neighborhood, and a cumulative risk index. The author used Nagin’s (2005) semiparametric group-based modeling strategy to identify developmental trajectories and chi-square tests to identify significant risk factors.
Results indicated several distinct trajectory groups that varied in frequency and rate of change for each outcome. Race differentiated between the spanking groups, PP groups, and dual-use groups. Risk factors that differentiated between spanking trajectory groups only included high child emotionality. Risks that differentiated the PP groups included mother considered an abortion, high parenting stress, public assistance receipt, and unsafe neighborhood. Risks that differentiated the dual-use groups included high child emotionality, mother considered an abortion, and high parenting stress. The cumulative risk index differentiated between the positive parenting and dual-use groups, but not the spanking groups.
The results suggest that there is longitudinal heterogeneity in the parenting of early childbearers, and that the accumulation of risk is related to poorer parenting over time. The identification of parenting trajectory groups highlights that some early childbearers are engaging in risky parenting and others are not. Risk factors differentiating the trajectory groups could be targeted by interventions to reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes and promote factors associated with positive forms of parenting for at-risk samples. Furthermore, risk assessment tools tailored for early childbearers may wish to focus on factors identified in the study in order to maximize the likelihood of identifying early childbearers most in need of support.