Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 413–424 | Cite as

Early adult psychological consequences for males of adolescent pregnancy and its resolution

  • Mary Buchanan
  • Cynthia Robbins


Using data front 2522 young men who were first surveyed as 7th-grade students in Houston, Texas in 1971, we examined the psychological consequences in early adulthood of having a girlfriend become pregnant in adolescence. By age 21, 15% of the young men were involved in a nonmarital pregnancy. Rates were higher for blacks (24%) than for whites (12%) or Hispanics (16%). Among whites, most adolescent pregnancies were ended by abortion (58%). Adolescent pregnancies to blacks most often resulted in single parenthood (56%). Hispanics tended to have the child, and marry or live together (55%). Consistent with the life course perspective, young men involved in adolescent pregnancies were more psychologically distressed as young adults than those who did not have a girlfriend become pregnant in adolescence. The greater distress in adulthood is not simply a function of accelerated role transitions, because men whose girlfriends had abortions are also distressed, and those who let their girlfriends assume major parenting responsibility are no less distressed than those who became fathers and married or lived with their girlfriends. Subgroup comparisons revealed that psychological distress levels of young black men were not influenced by adolescent pregnancy.


Young Adult Psychological Distress Health Psychology Single Parenthood Early Adulthood 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bacon, L. (1974). Early motherhood, accelerated role transition, and social pathologies.Social Forces 52: 333–341.Google Scholar
  2. Becerra, R. M., and de Anda, D. (1984). Pregnancy and motherhood among Mexican American adolescents.Health Social Work 9: 106–123.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bracken, M. B., Hachamovitch, M. and Grosman, G. (1974). The decision to abort and psychological sequelae.J. Nerv. Mental Dis. 158: 154–162.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, H., Adams, R. G., and Kellman, S. G. (1981). A longitudinal study of teenage motherhood and symptoms of distress: The Woodlawn Community Epidemiology Project. In Simmons, R. G. (ed.),Research in Community Mental Health: A Research Annual (Vol. 2). JAI Press, Greenwich, CT.Google Scholar
  5. Bumpass, L. L., Rindfuss, R. R., and Janosik, R. B. (1978). Age and marital status at first birth and the pace of subsequent fertility.Demography 15: 75–86.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Card, J. J., and Wise, L. L. (1978). Teenage mothers and teenage fathers: The impact of early childbearing on the parents' personal and professional lives.Family Plan. Perspect. 10: 199–205.Google Scholar
  7. Cazenave, N. A. (1981). Black men in America: The quest for manhood. In McAdoo, H. P. (ed.),Black Families. Sage, Beverly Hills, CA.Google Scholar
  8. Chilman, C. S. (1980). Social and psychological research concerning adolescent childbearing: 1970–1980.J. Marriage Family 42: 793–805.Google Scholar
  9. Elster, A., and Hendricks, L. E. (1986). Stresses and coping strategies of adolescent fathers. In Elster, A., and Lamb, A. (eds.),Adolescent Fatherhood. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  10. Elster, A. and Panzarine, S. (1983). Teenage fathers: Stresses during gestation and early parenthood.Clin. Pediat. 22: 700–703.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Freeman, E. W. (1978). Abortion: Subjective attitudes and feelings.Family Plan. Perspect. 10: 150–155.Google Scholar
  12. Friedman, C. M. (1972). Unwed motherhood: A continuing problem.Am. J. Psychiatr. 129: 85–89.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Glick, P. C. (1981). A demographic picture of black families. InBlack Families, McAdoo, H. P. (ed.). Sage, Beverly Hills, CA.Google Scholar
  14. Hofferth, S. (1984). Kin networks, race, and family structure.J. Marriage Family 46: 791–806.Google Scholar
  15. Hofferth, S. L., and Moore, K. A. (1979). Early childbearing and later economic well-being.Am. Sociol. Rev. 44:784–815.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Kaplan, H. B., Robbins, C., and Martin, S. S. (1983). Antecedents of psychological distress in young adults: Self-rejection, deprivation of social support, and life events.J. Health Social Behav. 24: 230–244.Google Scholar
  17. Marini, M. M. (1978).Consequences of Childbearing and Child-Spacing Patterns for Parents. Battelle Human Affairs Research Centers, Seattle.Google Scholar
  18. Marsiglio, W. (1986). Teenage fatherhood: High school completion and educational attainment. InAdolescent Fatherhood, Elster, A., and Lamb, M. (eds.), Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  19. McCarthy, J., and Menken, J. (1979). Marriage, remarriage, marital disruption and age at first birth.Family Plan. Perspect. 11: 21–30.Google Scholar
  20. McLaughlin, S. D., and Micklin, M. (1983). The timing of the first birth and changes in personal efficacy.J. Marriage Family 45: 47–65.Google Scholar
  21. Menken, J. (1975). Health and demographic consequences of adolescent pregnancy and childbearing. Paper presented at the Conference on Research on Adolescent Pregnancy and Childbearing, Bethesda, MD.Google Scholar
  22. Millman, S. R., and Hendershot, G. E. (1980). Early fertility and lifetime fertility.Family Plan. Perspect. 12: 139–149.Google Scholar
  23. Moore, K. A., Simm, M. C., and Betsey, C. L. (1986).Choice and Circumstance: Racial Differences in Adolescent Sexuality and Fertility. Transaction, New Brunswick, NJ.Google Scholar
  24. Mott, F. L., and Maxwell, N. L. (1981). School age mothers: 1968–1979.Family Plan. Perspect. 13: 287–292.Google Scholar
  25. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (1986). Adolescent pregnancy and childbearing—Rates, trends and research findings from the CPR, NICHD. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD.Google Scholar
  26. Osofsky, J. D., and Osofsky, H. J. (1972). The psychological reaction of patients to legalized abortion.Am. J. Orthopsychitry 42: 48–60.Google Scholar
  27. Shostak, A. B. (1979). Abortion as fatherhood lost: Problems and reforms.Family Coord. 28: 569–574.Google Scholar
  28. Stack, C. B. (1974).All Our Kin—Strategies for Survival in a Black Community. Harper & Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Thompson, M. S. (1987). The influence of supportive relations on the psychological wellbeing of teenage mothers.Social Forces 64: 1006–1024.Google Scholar
  30. Westney, O. E., Cole, O. J., and Munford, T. (1986). Adolescent unwed prospective fathers: Readiness for fatherhood and behaviors toward the mother and expected infant.Adolescence 21: 901–911.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Zongker, C. E. (1980). Self-concept differences between single and married school-age mothers.J. Youth Adoles. 9: 175–184.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Buchanan
  • Cynthia Robbins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Smith HallUniversity of DelawareNewark

Personalised recommendations