Developing Culturally-Congruent Interventions for Unwed Adolescent Mothers in Need of Care and Protection in Jordan: Can Community-Based Alternatives to Institutional Placement Reduce Stigma?
Methods: A community sample of adults (n=181) in Amman, Jordan were presented with vignettes varying by type of intervention (institutional versus foster care) and circumstances surrounding the pregnancy (consensual versus non-consensual), followed by questions concerning stigma toward the girl. Variation in demographic variables across experimental vignette conditions was assessed using chi-square and ANOVA; significant differences were found in participant’s education and employment. Subsequently, those variables were controlled for in two-way ANCOVAs examining stigma items in relation to the main and interaction effects of type of intervention and nature of consent.
Results: A main effect was found for type of care, indicating that personal stigma was significantly lower when the girl was described as placed in foster care rather than institutional care. A main effect was also found for consent, with personal stigma lower when pregnancy was due to non-consensual abuse rather than consensual sexual activity. Consent status did not moderate the effect of placement type on personal acceptance.
Conclusions: Unwed adolescent mothers in Jordan are likely to experience high levels of stigma, including concerns related to future marriageability. These findings indicate that, for those in need of protection and care, placement in foster care has the potential to lessen stigma and allow girls at deep risk of social exclusion to integrate back into the community and ease their transition to adulthood, especially when pregnancy occurs because of abuse. Additionally, while current practice is to separate infants from their young mothers, this study finds that overall public sentiment is that the baby would be slightly better off with their mother. As developmental research evidences multiple risks to healthy development for infants placed in institutional care, foster care placement that keeps mother and infant together may be a culturally-acceptable alternative providing numerous benefits. Findings support alternative options for the nascent profession of social work in the Middle East.