Depressed adolescent mothers' perceptions of their own maternal role

Janna Lesser, Deborah Koniak-Griffin, Nancy L.R. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Although there is a growing body of research in the area of adolescent pregnancy and parenting, little is known about the more personal experiences of these teens. Ethnographic research methods were used in the present study with the goal of narrowing existing gaps in knowledge about the affective component of adolescent mothers' role attainment. The sample consisted of 15 voluntary informants who reported depressive symptoms during pregnancy or postpartum. The findings suggest that for some adolescent mothers the experience of motherhood may help them improve their previously self-destructive lives. Many adolescent mothers have engaged in impulsive high-risk activities prior to their pregnancies. Through the establishment of a maternal identity and simultaneous development of a strong sense of maternal protectiveness these young women are making realistic, future-oriented decisions that are motivating them to leave gang life, finish high school, go to college, and get vocational training. However, a subset of adolescent mothers who experience chronic depressive mood along with social isolation in the postpartum period may be at increased risk for development of problematic maternal behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-149
Number of pages19
JournalIssues in Mental Health Nursing
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health


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