Methods: We analyzed data from 495 teen mother-child dyads from the Young Women and Child Development Study (YCDS), a longitudinal panel study involving two cohorts of teen mothers and their offspring. Teen mother’s childhood adversity included: Exposure to (1) physical abuse, (2) sexual abuse, (3) family closeness, (4) poverty, (5) food insecurity, (6) parent alcohol use, (7) maternal arrest, and (8) parental divorce. Each childhood adversity that was positively endorsed by participants were summed to obtain childhood adversity scores, which ranged from 0 to 8. Offspring’s externalizing behavior was assessed using Child Behavioral Check List (age 11). Three different aspects of parenting – disagreement with grandparents on parenting, physical discipline, and parenting stress – were included to examine the path between teen mother’s childhood adversity and offspring’s externalizing behavior. The analysis was divided into two parts. First, the pathway from teen mother’s childhood adversity to their offspring’s externalizing behaviors, via aspects of parenting, was tested. Second, multiple-group analysis was used to evaluate potential gender differences in the six paths. Covariates included teen mother’s age, race, educational attainment, depression, grandmother’s teen birth experience, and child’s externalizing behavior at baseline. Analysis were conducted in Mplus version 8. Missing data were managed with full information estimation.
Results: The mean score of teen mother's child adversity was 3.41 (SD=1.54). Results of the path models showed that teen mother’s childhood adversity was positively associated with greater use of physical discipline (0.14, p<.05) and more parenting stress (0.20, p<.001). In addition, there was positive associations between all three aspects of parenting on externalizing behaviors in children. Gender differences were found in the path between physical discipline and externalizing behavior (Wald-test Χ2(1)=8.45, p<.001), with the path significant only for girls (0.43, p<.001).
Implications: This study highlights the ways in which teen mothers’ own childhood adversity impacts parenting among teen mothers, and in turn, the externalizing behaviors of their children. These findings have implications for early intervention efforts that emphasize the need to intervene with children and parents, particularly helping mothers gain knowledge and skills to offset the possible impact of their experiences of childhood adversity on their parenting behaviors.