Methods:Data for this study came from the Predicting and Preventing Neglect in Teen Mothers study (2001-2007) which evaluated the impact of neglect on children’s development during their first three years of life. The current study was a secondary analysis of data from survey-based measures taken at the six-month interval after childbirth. A sample of 400 adolescent mothers completed the Child Abuse Potential Inventory, Knowledge of Infant Development Inventory, Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory, Parenting Stress Index, and the Pearlin Mastery Scale of Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy. The sample was limited to first-time mothers under the age of 20 at the start of the study in order to focus specifically on risks for adolescent mothers. Multivariate linear regression was utilized to examine associations between parenting style, maternal self-efficacy, knowledge of infant development, and parental stress and child abuse potential.
Results:Group comparisons indicated that adolescent mothers who were working had lower scores on the CAPI than those not working. Findings from multivariate linear regression indicated that maternal self-efficacy was significantly, negatively, associated with child abuse potential, and was the most important predictor of child abuse potential in this sample of adolescent mothers, followed by ethnicity, employment status, parenting style, and knowledge of infant development. Adolescent mothers who identified as black (compared to white) were also significantly and positively associated with child abuse potential.
Conclusions and Implications:These findings suggest that efforts to increase self-efficacy for adolescent mothers may be especially important for reducing the potential for child abuse. The current findings about increased child abuse potential for Black mothers suggest that specific groups traditionally marginalized require additional focus, and that these interventions need to be culturally-informed and strengths-based. Further, in this study, self-efficacy was measured specifically with perceptions of parenting and relating to children. However, given that working mothers in this study also had lower scores on the child abuse inventory, it could be that self-efficacy in multiple contexts, not just parenting, could be important for reducing child abuse potential. Future research should work to clarify the role of self-efficacy, as well as the implementation of teen empowerment programs for adolescent mothers.