Methods: To address this gap in the literature, our team conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with N=23 participants, including young (aged 18-25), maltreated mothers with very young children and professionals and caregivers serving them. The interviews examined both mental health and parenting needs. We transcribed the audio files verbatim, then used iterative four-phase constructivist grounded theory methods to develop a model of addressing mental health and parenting needs among young, maltreated mothers of very young children.
Results: Grounded theory analysis produced a theoretical model with a core category - “Supporting Trauma-Affected Young Mothers’ Mental Health and Parenting” - and several supporting categories representing facets of mothers’, professionals’, and caregivers’ experiences. Mothers expressed coping with incredible strain on their mental health, parenting, and well-being, such as building a network of support and keeping themselves and their children safe from abusive partners. Professionals described challenges with delivery of mental health and parenting support services, such as the cyclical nature of funding for testing and sustaining evidence-based programs. Caregivers shared their strong desire for supporting the young parents in their care, but expressed that struggles related to roles and responsibilities often made providing this support difficult.
Conclusions and Implications: This study provides a rich, detailed analysis of young parents’ and their support persons’ experiences, informing selection of feasible, appropriate, and acceptable evidence-based parenting support and trauma-focused mental health interventions likely to be effective with families with maltreated young parents. Findings from this study can help with the selection of evidence-based interventions that would sustainably help young mothers with a trauma history to 1) establish secure intergenerational relationships – both with their children and with a support network and 2) reduce trauma symptoms, helping these young parents heal from past experiences and gain security across multiple domains.