Coping, social support, and depressive symptoms in adolescent mothers

Susan Panzarine, Elisa Slater, Phyllis Sharps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine how the degree of depressive symptomatology among adolescent mothers differentiated maternal outcomes, social support, and coping at 6 months postpartum. Methods: Fifty primiparous adolescents, predominantly black and of low income, participated in the study. During a home visit at 6 months postpartum, a research assistant, blind to the study's hypotheses, administered questionnaires related to depressive symptoms, coping with motherhood, social support, maternal confidence, and maternal gratification. Feeding and teaching interactions between mother and child were observed. Results: Fifty-six percent of the subjects had no depressive symptoms (group 1), 20% reported mild symptoms (group 2), and 24% reported moderate to severe symptoms (group 3). Adolescents with mild or moderate depressive symptoms had more negative feeding interactions with their infants, reported less maternal confidence and gratification, and used more emotion-focused coping than their nondepressed counterparts. While the groups did not differ in the frequency with which they received social support, adolescents with mild or moderate depressive symptoms were less satisfied with this support. No differences were found among groups with regard to the size of their conflicted networks. Conclusions: This study extends the research findings related to depressive symptoms among adult mothers to a sample of adolescent mothers. Although the study design is crosssectional and therefore causal sequences cannot be determined, the results identify factors that may place certain adolescents at risk for problems in parenting. The authors suggest screening adolescent mothers during the first postpartum year for symptoms of depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-119
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent mothers
  • Coping
  • Depression
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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