, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 123-143

Teenage childbearing as an alternative life-course strategy in multigeneration black families

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This paper summarizes the findings of a three-year exploratory qualitative study of teenage childbearing in 20 low-income multigeneration black families. Teenage childbearing in these families is part of an alternative life-course strategy created in response to socioenvironmental constraints. This alternative life-course strategy is characterized by an accelerated family timetable; the separation of reproduction and marriage; an age-condensed generational family structure; and a grandparental child-rearing system. The implications of these patterns for intergenerational family roles are discussed.

The research described in this paper was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (RII-8613960) and the Center for the Study of Child and Adolescent Development, Pennsylvania State University. This paper was partially completed while the author was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
Linda Burton is an Assistant Professor of Human Development in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University. She was recently a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, where she studied the impact of teenage childbearing on the life course of older women. Her current research examines the effects of adolescent pregnancy on intergenerational family structure and function among blacks in three socioeconomic groups—persistent poor, transient poor, and working/middle-class.