Teenage Pregnancy, Society, and Health: Investigating Age and Racial Prejudice Against Adolescent Mothers

Vilamor, Gabriela [Browse]
Senior thesis
66 pages


Spokas, Megan [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
Negative perceptions of teenage mothers may contribute to the adverse health outcomes to which this population is particularly susceptible. Utilizing a survey-based experimental design, this study investigated people’s perceptions of teenage mothers in the United States (U.S.) in order to assess whether negative prejudices against teenage mothers exist and to what extent these perceptions are further influenced by the implied race/ethnicity of the mothers. Participants (N=386) residing in the U.S. were recruited online and randomized to one of four conditions. Each condition included the presentation of a vignette describing a different fictional mother: a 16-year old mother with either a typically white-sounding or typically black-sounding name or a 30-year old mother with either a typically white-sounding or typically black-sounding name. Participants’ perceptions of the characters in the vignette were measured by their responses to questions on a 5-point Likert rating scale. The results revealed a statistically significant bias for participants to view teenage mothers as more irresponsible caretakers, less irresponsible in general, and less likely to be successful parents compared to adult mothers. Additionally, there was a bias to view teenage mothers as less likely to be trusted with taking care of another person’s child. Though not statistically significant, there was a trend to rate the teenage mothers as less motivated to be good parents. The results also revealed an unanticipated finding. There was a trend in which the teenage mother with the typically white-sounding name was rated more negatively than the teenage mother with the typically black-sounding name. Overall, these findings provide evidence of a negative age-related prejudice against teenage mothers held by those in the U.S. population.

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