Date Approved

10-2006

Date Posted

10-1-2009

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Michelle Byrd, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Carol Freedman-Doan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James T. Todd, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roger Kernsmith, Ph.D.

Abstract

Approximately 10% of all adolescents between 15-19 years old in the United States become pregnant, with about half of these pregnancies resulting in birth. Several variables have been correlated with long-term outcomes for teenage mothers, including poor academic achievement, lower occupational attainment, poor mental health, and socioeconomic hardship. Social support is one factor that moderates these outcomes. This study employed the use of written vignettes to examine differences in expectations for success (educational, economic, and psychological) that educational professionals have for teenage mothers and non-mother adolescents (N=145). Vignettes were varied according to levels of social support and parenting status, with current grades, race, gender, age, and socioeconomic status held constant. Expectations for future educational achievement, economic success, and psychological well-being were rated according to information provided in the vignettes using the Expectations Rating Scale, which was developed for the purpose of this study. Participants also rated attitudes about teenage motherhood by endorsing level of agreement with statements on the Professionals’ Attitudes Toward Teenage Mothers rating scale, which was adapted for the purpose of this study. Results indicated that expectations differed according to the type and amount of social support portrayed in the vignettes. As the number of social supports increased, so did expectations. Furthermore, the receipt of parent support, teacher support, and peer support all predicted higher global expectation ratings. In particular, high parent and teacher support predicted higher expectation ratings. However, when expectations for psychological well-being were examined individually, only peer and parent support were predictors. Also, expectations were lower for teenage mothers than for non-mother adolescents. Exploratory analyses revealed that teaching professionals’ attitudes Experience of Teenage Parents vii and expectations were not correlated; participants held generally more positive attitudes about teenage mothers when mean scores were compared with the possible “neutral” score; no demographic variables were associated with expectation ratings; and participants’ age and years in profession were positively correlated with attitudes about teenage motherhood. These findings have implications for the training of education professionals with regard to their role in the lives of teenage mothers.

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