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13-04-2020 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 6/2020

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 6/2020

Externalizing Behavior Problems in Offspring of Teen Mothers: A Meta-Analysis

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 6/2020
Jungeun Olivia Lee, Chung H. Jeong, Chaoyue Yuan, Joseph M. Boden, Adriana J. Umaña-Taylor, Mireya Noris, Julie A. Cederbaum
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10964-020-01232-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Young maternal age at birth has been consistently recognized as a factor contributing to externalizing behavior. However, estimates of the magnitude of this association across existing studies are inconsistent. Such inconsistencies cloud the interpretation of the literature and highlight the need for a systematic synthesis of existing empirical evidence. Further, the roles of possible moderators in the association remain to be revealed. Moderation analyses will enhance the field’s capacity to evaluate needs and locate a subgroup of children born to teen mothers with particularly heightened vulnerabilities. To address these gaps, the present study had two primary aims. First, a meta-analysis was conducted to quantify the magnitude of the association between being born to young mothers and children’s externalizing behavior across existing studies. Second, moderation meta-analyses were conducted to evaluate whether the influence of being born to teen mothers on children’s externalizing behavior is stronger during specific developmental periods, for a specific gender, for a specific race, or across contexts with varying teen pregnancy rates at a societal level. The current study followed the PRISMA guidelines. The search utilized multiple electronic databases including Web of Science, ProQuest, PubMed, and Ovid MEDLINE through July 2019. Standardized mean difference, Cohen’s d, was used as a summary estimate of effect size. A random-effects model was conducted. Moderating effects were evaluated. Twenty-one effect sizes from 18 independent samples (n = 133,585) were included in the meta-analysis. The main meta-analysis and sensitivity analysis suggested a small yet robust association between teenage motherhood and children’s externalizing behavior problems. The relevant moderation analyses detected no statistically significant moderating effect for a specific gender, for racial and ethnic minority groups, during a specific developmental period, or across varying contexts. The current meta-analysis findings suggest that the impact of young maternal age on children’s externalizing behavior is small, yet independent. Further, such impacts of young maternal age were similar for girls and boys, in different racial and ethnic groups, across developmental periods, and across different contexts with varying teen pregnancy rates. Prevention efforts seeking to curb the emergence of youth’s externalizing behavior should focus on parenting teens, regardless of their child’s gender, race, age, or contexts. Further, the current findings suggest that prevention strategies for this specific group may benefit from a hybrid approach that combines universal, selective, and indicated prevention strategies.

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