Teenage mothers and child abuse

At least in Western industrialized countries, early child-bearing or teenage pregnancy predicts many undesirable outcomes for the children, including low school attainment, antisocial school behaviour, substance use, and early sexual intercourse. The children of teenage mothers are also more likely to become offenders. For example, Morash and Rucker(17) analysed results from four surveys in the United States and the United Kingdom (including the Cambridge Study) and found that teenage mothers were associated with low income families, welfare support, and absent biological fathers, that they used poor child-rearing methods, and that their children were characterized by low school attainment and delinquency. However, the presence of the biological father mitigated many of these adverse factors and generally seemed to have a protective effect. In the Cambridge Study, teenage mothers who went on to have large numbers of children were especially likely to have convicted children. In the Newcastle 1000-Family Study (18> mothers who married as teenagers (a factor strongly related to teenage child-bearing) were twice as likely as others to have sons who became offenders by the age of 32 years.

There is considerable intergenerational transmission of aggressive and violent behaviour from parents to children, as Maxfield and Widom (!9) found in a retrospective study of over 900 abused children in Indianapolis. Children who were physically abused up to the age of 11 years were significantly likely to become violent offenders in the next 15 years. Similarly, harsh discipline by parents when the boys were aged 8 years predicted later violent as opposed to non-violent offenders up to the age of 21 years in the Cambridge Study. The extensive review by Malinosky-Rummell and Hansen(29 confirms that being physically abused as a child predicts later violent and non-violent offending. It is usually suggested that this is because children learn by example that aggression is a legitimate method of solving problems.

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