Teenage childbearing is associated with many adverse consequences for teen mothers, their families, and children. Many of the negative consequences for teen mothers are due to the disadvantaged situations in which many of these girls already lived before having a teen birth. While the disadvantaged backgrounds of most teen mothers account for many of the burdens that these young women shoulder, having a baby during adolescence often restricts economic and educational opportunities, and these disadvantages tend to be passed on to the next generation. Children born to teen mothers are often worse off than children born to older mothers. They are at higher risk of poverty, low educational attainment, problem behavior, early sexual activity, and becoming a teen parent themselves. Marriage, or more specifically, the absence of marriage, helps explain this cycle of disadvantage. Many family-related factors affect how children fare and develop over time, and marriage is one of them. Research suggests that children do best when they are raised by two parents who have a stable marriage. Yet only 20 percent of teen births occur within marriage , and teen pregnancy itself is associated with a lower likelihood of marriage. Teen mothers are unlikely to marry the biological fathers of their children, and those teenage mothers who do wed often end up in unstable marriages. For their part, the unmarried fathers are less likely to be involved in their children's lives, and reduced paternal involvement is associated with lower child well-being. For all of these reasons, helping more women reach adulthood before they have children would go a long way toward ensuring that more children grow up in stable,married families. And considering the large body of research on the benefits to children of growing up insuch families, the link between reducing teen pregnancies and improving overall child well-being is clear. (Author abstract)
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