Age at first birth and life outcomes: the case of teenage mothers in the ONS Longitudinal Study

John Tomkinson, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED) and Université de Strasbourg

Based upon the hypothesis that a teenage birth represents a “major disruption” in the lifecourse (Charbonneau, 2000), much interest has been devoted to the question of what becomes of teenage mothers in later life? If in later life women having had a child as a teenager suffer poorer life outcomes, the direct effect of the timing of entry into motherhood is hard to establish and poses a methodological challenge – the question being whether the life trajectory observed post teenage birth is a continuation of a pre-existing pathway or represents a veritable turning point. Several studies have used innovative methods to try to evaluate the effect of a teenage birth on ulterior life outcomes (Geronimus et Korenman, 1992 ; Ermisch et Pevalin, 2003 ; Hotz et al., 2005). This study attempts to respond to this question by following the familial, professional and housing trajectories of women using the ONS Longitudinal Study (LS). The results of this analysis indicate associations between a teenage first birth and poorer life outcomes compared to women having entered into motherhood between the ages of 25 and 29 years old. Amongst others, those women having experienced a teenage birth are more likely to have never worked (OR = 8.4), to be a single parent (OR = 2.3) and to live in a deprived household (OR = 1.9) whilst being less likely to be married (OR = 0.4) or to be a homeowner (OR = 0.2). Some of these associations (inactivity, difficulties to enter the housing market) are stronger for those teenage mothers being from backgrounds of lower social origin.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session 2