Teenage motherhood among low-income, urban Hispanics: Familial and cultural considerations of mother-daughter dyads

Daniel Thomas Sciarra, Fordham University


The present hypothesis generating, qualitative study employed a family-systems perspective to investigate teenage motherhood among low-income, Hispanic families living in high-crime areas. The study focused primarily on the mother-daughter relationship. A semi-structured interview was administered separately to mothers and daughters in 11 mother-daughter dyads. A system of open and axial coding was used to categorize, analyze, and name the core category associated with the data. From this analysis a tentative theory of teenage motherhood emerged. The study identified teenage motherhood among the sample as an attempt to restore a sense of stability and balance not only to the life of the teenager, but also to that of her mother and the father of the baby. The finding that subjects became more dependent and controlled by their mothers after the pregnancy contradicted the literature and raised paradoxical questions concerning the issues of separation and individuation. Having an older sibling who is or was a teenage mother and the accompanying exposure to child rearing activity, mitigated the challenge of becoming a teen mother. A related finding was that even those teens who enjoyed a close and open relationship with their mothers could not admit to being sexually active. The teens' mothers who had themselves been early childbearers were more likely to discuss sex and boys than those mothers who had had offspring later in life. The teens' mothers viewed abortion as permission to commit the same "mistake" again. Teenage motherhood was identified as being responsible for building a closer mother/daughter bond and lessening conflicts which may have existed earlier in the relationship. Finally, the failure to adjust to the junior high school environment resulted in poor academic performance and increased the risk for teenage pregnancy and motherhood. Suggestions for future research include investigating the father of the baby and his mother as major contributors to teenage motherhood. The alienating effect upon the male siblings of the family created by teenage motherhood also needs to be examined. Educators, counselors, and other professionals must increase their awareness concerning familial influences upon teenage motherhood.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Educational psychology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Sciarra, Daniel Thomas, "Teenage motherhood among low-income, urban Hispanics: Familial and cultural considerations of mother-daughter dyads" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9511247.