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Ecological Analysis of Infant Neglect by Adolescent Mothers

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2014 Pages: 723-734
Jessica Dym Bartlett; Maryna Raskin; Chie Kotake; Kristen D. Nearing; M. Ann Easterbrooks
Date Published
April 2014
12 pages
This study identified risk factors for infant neglect among a sample of 383 adolescent mothers who had been involved in substantiated neglect of their firstborn infants.
As hypothesized, attributes of infants, mothers, and the contexts in which they were living predicted neglectful parenting in this sample. Neglected infants were more likely to have low birth weight and have mothers who smoked during pregnancy. Low birth weight was linked to infant temperamental difficulty and greater need for attuned parental caregiving. Similarly, prenatal nicotine exposure was related to problems with self-regulation during infancy and childhood, even among infants whose mothers were not heavy smokers. A baby's sex, age, and Apgar scores did not distinguish risk for neglect, as has been found in some studies with older mothers. The study also found that adolescent mothers who faced various adversities had fewer psychological, behavioral, and financial resources needed to support healthy parenting compared to their non-maltreating neglectful mothers, they also experience more intimate partner violence than did not-neglectful mothers. In addition, neglectful adolescent mothers reported more neglect by their primary caregiver as children compared to non-neglectful mothers. Although child maltreatment in the United States has decreased in recent years, the incidence of infant neglect has increased. This suggests that prenatal programs for pregnant adolescent girls and parenting programs for new adolescent mothers must be expanded and improved. 2 tables and 87 references