Human Nature

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 323–352 | Cite as

What teen mothers know

  • Arline T. GeronimusEmail author


In the United States, low-income or minority populations tend toward earlier births than the more advantaged. In disadvantaged populations, one factor that may exert pressure toward early births is “weathering,” or pervasive health uncertainty. Are subjective perceptions of health related to fertility timing? Drawing on a small sample of intensive interviews with teenage mothers-to-be, I suggest that low-income African American teenagers may expect uncertain health and short lifespans. Where family economies and caretaking systems are based on kin networks, such perceptions may influence the decision to become a young mother. Heuristic typologies of ways socially situated knowledge may contribute to the reproduction of fertility timing practices contrast the experiences of poor African American interviewees, working class white interviewees, and middle-class teens who typically postpone childbearing.

Key words

African Americans Culture First birth timing Mortality Reproduction Risk taking Socioeconomic status Teenage pregnancy 


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Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health EducationUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor

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