A strong predictor of a child's success in reading and math seems to be the amount of education that his or her mother has attained — and that success is even greater if the mom has their child later in life.
This is what a new University of Michigan study is showing, according to Sandra Tang, a U-M psychology research fellow and the study's lead author. Tang says that children of mothers of 19 years or older usually enter kindergarten achieving at a higher level. All the way through eighth grade, these children continue to excel in math and reading at a higher level than kids who were born to mothers of 18 and younger.
Jared Wadley of the University of Michigan's Michigan News reports that the negatives of having a teen mother affect not only the child that the mother has as a teen, but also children born later in the mom's life as well.
"These results provide compelling evidence that having a child during adolescence has enduring negative consequences for the achievement of the next generation," Tang said.
Pamela Davis-Kean, associate professor of psychology and a research associate professor at the Institute for Social Research and Center for Human Growth and Development, said there are positives and negatives to these findings. If teen moms, continue their educations after they have a child, their children do better in school than the children of teen moms who do not continue.
"However, these children—and other children born to the mother when she wasn't an adolescent—never catch up in achievement across time to children whose mothers had them after completing their education," Davis-Kean said. "This group continues to carry a risk for lower achievement."
The researchers' data came from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, which is a nationwide sample of children who were assessed in kindergarten in 1998 and were then interviewed through spring 2007. The analyses looked at the mothers' educational expectations for their children, the children's home environment, and other factors like household income which might impact children's academic achievement.
Also shown by the study was the fact that mothers who give birth in their adolescence often do not complete high school, nor enroll in college compared to similar adolescent girls who delay pregnancy. Intervening with teen mothers to provide them the skills needed to help their children learn becomes increasingly important to ensure better outcomes for parent and child.
Another finding was that mothers who graduated from college most often had a higher family income and better proficiency in reading. Yet, if a child's mother did not graduate from high school, the child is likely not to graduate from high school on time.
Alexandra Svokos of The Huffington Post says many factors come into play concerning a child's performance in school, and younger mothers have a greater chance of raising their children in a lower economic environment than older mothers. Thus, often children of older mothers have a head start beginning at birth. Unfortunately, it is likely that teen mothers could have less support from their schools, families, and communities.