What if becoming a teenage parent saved a life?

20 June 2013

New Zealanders have a tendency to lump people together in groups such as the poor and those on welfare benefits, and write them off as irredeemable, a UC researcher says.

New Zealanders have a tendency to lump people together in groups such as the poor and those on welfare benefits, and write them off as irredeemable, a University of Canterbury researcher says.

Becoming a teenage parent is widely regarded as a personal and social disaster but recent research has found teenage mothers regard their own pregnancies as positive and life-changing.

"Despite dropping out of school, many teenage mothers decide to re-engage with education to ensure a better life for themselves and their children. New Zealand is at the forefront of innovative educational responses to the needs of this special group of young people,'' Dr Jenny Hindin-Miller says.

She will give a public lecture about teen mothers on campus next week (June 26). See here for details:http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/wiw/

Dr Hindin-Miller has worked with and researched young women who have become parents in their teenage years. The young women she studied had mostly dropped out of mainstream education but chose to return to school because of their status as parents and because they wanted to improve their own lives for the sake of their children.

New Zealand has 20 Teen Parent Units established to support the educational and other needs of teenage parents and their children. The units provide early childhood care and education for the young parents' children, as well as transport and healthy food.

They offer holistic wrap-around services including health, counselling, social support, legal and housing advice, career planning, work placements and Plunket visits to support their needs.

"My findings show that young mothers who attended these Teen Parent Schools were mostly successful educationally and in other aspects of their lives which are valued in our society, such as careers and home ownership.

"In fact their life trajectories appeared not to have been delayed or disadvantaged by becoming parents early.  These young women were also very good parents, despite the social stigma they had to contend with from wider society.

"They strongly believed that their own lives had been greatly enriched and enhanced by becoming parents and returning to education.''

New Zealand has the second highest rate of teenage births among developed countries, after the United States.

In the year to March 2011, 4374 babies were born to New Zealand teenage mothers. Two thirds of the 4734 births were to mothers aged 18 and 19.

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