Maternal Health Status and Early Childbearing

A Test of the Weathering Hypothesis

Published in: Applied Demography and Public Health / Hoque, Nazrul, McGehee, Mary A., Bradshaw, Benjamin S., editors (Dordrecht ; New York: Springer, 2013), Applied Demography Series v. 3, Chapter 11, p. 169-188

Posted on RAND.org on November 24, 2015

by Sarah O. Meadows, Megan K. Beckett, Marc N. Elliott, Christine E. Peterson

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This study examines the hypothesis of early childbearing as detrimental to maternal well-being.

Early childbearing, especially as an adolescent, has been labeled by one former president as the country's "most important social problem" (Clinton 1995). Conventional wisdom suggests that having a child as a teenager is detrimental for maternal well-being, especially educational attainment and labor market outcomes, but also for interpersonal outcomes, such as relationship quality with partners and exposure to intimate violence. Many studies confirm such expectations (see Hayes 1987). Empirically, teenage childbearing has been linked to lower levels of completed education (Hotz et al. 1997; Fletcher and Wolfe 2009), lower wages and earnings and generally worse labor market outcomes (Chevalier and Viitanen 2003; Klepinger et al. 1999), and lower rates of marriage and higher overall fertility (Bennett et al. 1995; Hoffman et al. 1993), although some studies have suggested the negative economic and social consequences of teen pregnancy and childbearing are not as large as once thought (Furstenberg 1991; Lawlor and Shaw 2002; Scally 2002; Rich-Edwards 2002).

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