Social Support and Family Functioning Contribute to Parenting Competence for Adolescent Couples

August 12, 2014

As pregnant adolescents transition to parenthood, they face many challenges that have the potential to hinder their sense of parenting competence and negatively affect both their own health and the health of their children.  Social support and family functioning may be able to mitigate these challenges and positively influence parenting competence in adolescents.  The aim of this ARCH study was to identify the relationship between social support, family functioning, and social capital on parenting competence, specifically self-efficacy and satisfaction.

Data collected in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy and at 6 months postpartum from a total of 231 couples were used for this study.  The average age for men was 21.1 years and the average age for women was 18.7 years.  Participants were asked about their levels of social support, family functioning, social capital, and sense of parenting competence, regarding both parenting self-efficacy and parenting satisfaction.

A relationship was found between greater social support and increased parenting self-efficacy and parenting satisfaction.  Higher family functioning was also significantly associated with greater parenting satisfaction.  Furthermore, the greater a partner’s family functioning, the higher the parenting satisfaction levels (e.g., the father’s family functioning impacted the mother’s levels of parenting satisfaction).  Depression was also examined as a factor in this study and it was found to significantly influence all of these relationships between social support, family functioning, and parenting competence.  No differences were found between men and women, suggesting that social support and family functioning are important for both adolescent mothers and fathers.

These results indicate that we should focus on developing programs that aim to improve support mechanisms during pregnancy for young mothers and fathers, thus increasing their sense of parenting competence and positive health outcomes for their children.

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