Some (But Not Much) Progress Toward Understanding Teenage Childbearing. A Review of Research from the Past Decade

Claire A. Coyne*, Brian M. D'Onofrio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


In the decade and a half since Coley and Chase-Lansdale's (1998) review of teenage childbearing, there have been a number of studies investigating teenage childbearing from a developmental psychological perspective. Many of these studies have focused primarily on identifying individual, familial, and socioeconomic risk factors in childhood and adolescence that are highly correlated with teenage sexual behavior and teenage childbearing. We have an emerging understanding of teenage childbearing as the culmination of a complex cascade of experiences and decisions that overlap greatly with the risks for antisocial behavior. Much of this research, however, is limited by its reliance on correlational and cross-sectional research designs, which are not able to rigorously test causal inferences or to identify mechanisms associated with teenage childbearing. Innovative studies using large, nationally representative samples with quasi-experimental and longitudinal designs can expand on such descriptive studies. In particular, quasi-experimental studies can help answer questions about which risk factors are causally associated with teenage childbearing and suggest potential mechanisms that can explain how teenage childbearing is associated with poor outcomes. Future studies also will need to incorporate more precise measures of developmental processes and explore heterogeneity among adolescent mothers. Although advances have been made in the psychological study of teenage childbearing, more research is needed in order to answer important questions about which psychological processes are causally related to teenage childbearing and how teenage childbearing is associated with poor outcomes for young mothers and their offspring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-152
Number of pages40
JournalAdvances in Child Development and Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 12 2012


  • Adolescence
  • Offspring
  • Teenage childbearing
  • Young mothers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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