Beyond Stereotypes

Who Becomes a Single Teenage Mother?

by Allan Abrahamse, Peter A. Morrison, Linda Waite

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Abstract

This study identifies (1) the background characteristics that determine teenagers' risk of becoming single mothers, (2) how family and religious influences temper those risks, and (3) other kinds of influences that further modify risks. Data are for a nationally representative panel of 13,000 contemporary high school sophomore women. Although chances of becoming a single mother depend on individual and family characteristics, those chances can be modified — sometimes substantially — by other influences, including social restraints that emanate from family and church, and other factors that may either reinforce or undermine these controls at home. The strength of such influences varies across racial and ethnic groups. Findings suggest that programs aimed at lowering teen fertility rates should be tailored to specific groups of women, reflecting the particular characteristics and influences that affect them most.

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