Children born to teen mothers may have a slight language delay compared to children born to mothers in their late 20s and 30s, but they are not disadvantaged intellectually, a new British study suggests.
The researchers examined statistics from the Millennium Cohort Study, which tracked 19 000 kids born in the United Kingdom in 2000 and 2001. Of those, 12 000 underwent testing of their spatial, verbal and nonverbal skills when they were 5 years old.
The researchers found that differences in nonverbal and spatial skills of kids born to younger mothers versus older mothers disappeared when they took into account factors such as household income, education level of the mother, absence of a father and child care.
But the researchers did find a difference in verbal skills between the children born to teen mothers and those born to mothers aged 24 to 34. They said, however, that the apparent developmental delay dropped from 11 months to five months when they considered social and perinatal factors.
"Being a teenage mother significantly limits one's ability to gain further education and higher-level employment, which may in turn affect child development," the researchers said.
Mothers 18 and younger made up just 5% of the mothers included in the study. 20% were aged 19 to 24, 28% were aged 25 to 29 and 35% were aged 30 to 35. Women 35 and older made up 12% of the mothers.
The study, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, uncovered differences between the groups in terms of medical care and baby care. For instance: Teen mothers were more likely than older mothers to have their pregnancy confirmed after 30 weeks 2% of teens compared to 1% of mothers 30 to 34. The teen mothers also were much more likely to have no prenatal care (7%) compared to the older group (1%).
Extended breastfeeding, which is considered beneficial for children, also was less common in the younger mothers. Just 7% of teenage moms breastfed their infants for four or more months compared to 41% of mothers aged 30 to 34.
The authors said more research is warranted.
For more about teen motherhood, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.