Dissertation Defense: Luciana C. Assini-Meytin
Advisor/Chair: Dr. Mary A. Garza (advisor/co-chair) and Dr. Kerry M. Green (co-chair)
Committee Members: Dr. Amelia M. Arria and Dr. Amy B. Lewin
Dean's Representative: Dr. Mia A. Smith-Bynum
Title: Variations in Teen Mothers and Teen Fathers’ Socioeconomic Attainment in Adulthood: Exploring the Role of Family Support and Adult Identity
Abstract: Although teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. have decreased over the past several decades, teenage parenthood remains a major public health concern. Research indicates that teenage parents have worse socioeconomic outcomes than their peers who postponed childbearing. Much remains to be learned about the factors that buffer the negative impact of teen pregnancy. Few studies have examined characteristics of young mothers and fathers who fare well in adulthood despite early childbearing, including whether or not subgroup variation in outcomes exist by race. Based on the Life Course Theory, this study investigated two potential longitudinal predictors of teen parents’ socioeconomic attainment in adulthood: family support and adult identity.
A secondary data analysis with males and females who reported a live birth before age 20 (N=1,317; 74.5% females) was conducted using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) restricted use dataset. Add Health is a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of teenagers in grades 7-12 (1994-1995) followed into ages 24-32 (2008-2009). Regression models accounting for survey design and weights were developed to fulfill the study aims. In Study 1, racial differences in teen fathers’ demographic characteristics over the life course were explored. Findings showed that Black teen fathers, while they perceived greater parental support in their transition to adulthood, experienced greater accumulation of socioeconomic disadvantages in their adulthood compared to White teen fathers. In Study 2, the longitudinal impact of family support and adult identity on socioeconomic attainment was investigated among teen mothers. Results from adjusted linear regression analysis revealed that (a) teen mothers’ perceived parental emotional support marginally predicted greater subjective socioeconomic attainment in adulthood, and (b) adult identity profiles may impact teenage mothers’ socioeconomic outcomes. In Study 3, longitudinal predictors of educational attainment and income in adulthood were examined for teen fathers. Results from adjusted regression models showed that (a) teenage fathers’ risk behavior in adolescence is associated with lower educational attainment and income in adulthood and (b) work participation in the early 20s may reduce teen fathers’ investment in education.
Findings from this study can help inform interventions to promote successful socioeconomic adulthood trajectories among teen mothers and teen fathers by identifying factors that may buffer negative effects associated with early childbearing, as well as, teen parents most in need of intervention programs to achieve higher socioeconomic status.