Child Development Knowledge and Authoritative Parenting: Implications for Adolescent Mothers

Child Development Knowledge and Authoritative Parenting: Implications for Adolescent Mothers
Sarah Payne, M.S. Ed. & Jocelyn H. Newton, PhD, NCSP
One group of at-risk teenagers some school psychologists
may work with is teenage mothers. With this population, there
are concerns with how much knowledge and information these
mothers have to effectively parent their newborn. This poster
presentation will summarize results of a study conducted to
examine differences between adolescent and adult mothers on
knowledge of child development to determine the impact on
authoritative parenting. Implications to educators and school
psychologists will be discussed.
•Recent statistics estimate that four percent of females aged
15-19 will become teenage mothers (Guttmacher Institute,
2010). Research has shown that these students are at risk for
poor financial outcomes, negative academic outcomes (i.e.,
dropout), as well as mental health problems (Meyers, 2004). In
addition, there are also concerns for the children they parent in
that they are more at risk for health and developmental problems
as compared to children born to adult mothers (Meyers, 2004).
•Adult and adolescent mothers who have accurate expectations
of their children’s abilities and development have children with
greater socioemotional and cognitive competencies (TamisLeMonda et. al, 2002). Karraker and Evans (1996) found that
adolescent mothers were less knowledgeable about normal
infant development than were adult mothers.
•Benasich and Brooks-Gunn (1996) discuss the implications of
maternal knowledge and beliefs. The researchers suggest that
maternal knowledge about the processes of child development
influence the way that the mother understands the behavior of
her child. This can affect how the mother interacts with her
children. This study suggests that child development can impact
how a mother parents her child. The authors further indicate that
maternal beliefs are also associated with child outcomes.
Karraker and Evans (1996) reinforce this belief and suggest that
the lack of knowledge about child development can adversely
affect adolescents’ parenting abilities.
Conclusions and Future Directions
•Park and Bauer (2002) indicate that authoritative parents tend
to have high academic achieving students. Glasgow et. al
(1997) further describe this parenting style as establishing and
firmly enforcing rules and behavior standards. These parents
consistently monitor conduct and use non punitive methods of
discipline. They encourage open communication and validate
their child’s point of view. Authoritative parents expect and
reinforce socially responsible and mature behavior.
•Adolescents raised by authoritative parents are more likely to
demonstrate greater engagement in classroom activities, higher
educational aspirations, stronger work orientation, more positive
feelings about school, and lower levels of behavioral misconduct
(Steinberg et. Al, 1992). Glasgow et. al (1997) states that
authoritative parenting is the most successful in fostering
personal and social responsibility. These researchers indicate
that the authoritative parenting style is the healthiest parenting
style and results in the best childhood outcomes.
Study purpose:
This study will examine the impact of the age of a mother (adult
vs. adolescent) and her knowledge of child development on her
level of authoritative parenting. Prior research has focused on
only child development knowledge, or only parenting styles.
Thus, the current study will extend the existing knowledge to
examine the effects of age and child development knowledge on
the level of authoritative parenting style.
•Adolescent mother participants came from two alternative high
school settings in Western Wisconsin.
•Adult mother participants came from two “moms groups” in
Western Wisconsin.
•Adolescent mother participants completed the surveys during
their independent study class time.
•Group leaders of moms groups distributed the surveys at their
monthly meetings. The adult mothers then mailed their
completed surveys to the examiner.
The following questionnaires were administered to participants:
1. Knowledge of Child Development Inventory (Larsen
and Juhasz, 1986) in order to determine the mother’s level
of knowledge
2. Parental Authority Questionnaire-Revised (Reitman et.
Al, 2002) in order to determine the mothers’ level of
authoritative parenting.
Demographics: A total of 15 mothers completed the full survey.
The demographics of the participants are as follows:
•Adolescent Mothers age range: 16-19, mean of 18
•Adult Mothers age range: 24-38, mean of 33
•Ethnicity: Caucasian = 15
•Pregnancy Status: 15 were not currently pregnant
•Number of Children: range 1-4, average of 1
Analysis: An analysis of variance was conducted to assess if
Authoritative Parenting Style differed as a function of type of
mother (Adolescent or Adult) or Child Development Knowledge.
No significant differences in Authoritative Parenting Style were
found for either of the independent variables:
• Type of Mother (adolescent or adult), F (1, 11)=.002, p=.964,
Partial eta2=.00.
• Child Development Knowledge, F (1, 11)=.63, p=.445, Partial
Qualitative data: An open-ended response survey was given to
the adolescent mother population. Students were asked what
they wished their schools would have provided them in order to
help them become a better parent.
• A common response was a parenting class built into their daily
• Another common response was help navigating the social
services available in the community such as daycare waivers,
the WIC program, subsidized housing, and transportation.
•An analysis of variance was conducted to assess if level of
authoritative parenting differed as a function of the age of the
mother and mother’s child development knowledge.
•Results indicate that there were no significant differences
between groups.
•The primary limitation of this study was the small number of
•Another limitation of this study was that all participants were
Caucasian, which would limit the ability to generalize the results
to more diverse populations.
•The qualitative results could be used to bolster current
educational programming provided in schools for teenage
parents. This information could inform curriculum decisions in
order to include the topics students want more information on.
•In terms of future directions for research, it may be beneficial to
examine differences between adolescent mothers and adult
mothers on their level of child development knowledge and on
their level of authoritative parenting separately. A larger sample
would also be beneficial.
•Benasich, A., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1996). Maternal attitudes and knowledge of
child-rearing: Associations with family and child outcomes. Child Development,
67, 1186-1205.
•Glasgow, K., Dornbusch, S., Troyer, L., Steinberg, L., & Ritter, P. (1997).
Parenting styles, adolescents’ attributions, and educational outcomes in nine
heterogeneous high schools. Child Development, 68(3), 507-529.
•Guttmacher Institute. (2010). U.S. teenage pregnancies, births and abortions:
National and state trends and trends by race and ethnicity. Washington, DC.
•Karraker, K., & Evans, S. (1996). Adolescent mothers’ knowledge of child
development and expectations for their own infants. Journal of Youth and
Adolescence, 25(5), 651-666.
•Larsen, J.J., & Juhasz, A.M. (1986). The knowledge of child development
inventory. Adolescence, 21(81), 39-54.
•Meyers, A. (2004). Pregnancy in adolescence: Information for parents and
educators. Retrieved from
•Park, H., & Bauer, S. (2002). Parenting practices, ethnicity, socioeconomic
status and academic achievement in adolescents. School Psychology
International, 23(4), 386-396.
•Reitman, D., Rhode, P., Hupp, S., & Altobello, C. (2002). Development and
validation of the parental authority questionnaire – revised. Journal of
Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 24, 119-127.
•Steinberg, L., Lamborn, S., Dornbusch, S., & Darling, N. (1992). Impact of
parenting practices on adolescent achievement: Authoritative parenting, school
involvement, and encouragement to succeed. Child Development, 63, 12661281.
•Tamis-LeMonda, C., Shannon, J., & Spellman, M. (2002). Low-income
adolescent mothers’ knowledge about domains of child development. Infant
Mental Health Journal, 23(1-2), 88-103.