March 1991

Psychosocial Predictors of Maternal and Infant Health Among Adolescent Mothers

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco.

Am J Dis Child. 1991;145(3):267-273. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1991.02160030035017

• Past work suggests that stressful life events and social support are significantly associated with a broad range of child health outcomes. Such associations have remained, however, generally modest in magnitude, suggesting that stress and support may be only proxy measures for a deeper, more central aspect of childhood psychosocial experience. One aspect of young people's lives that could plausibly mediate the effects of stress and social support on health is the sense of stability and "permanence" in ongoing life experience. We developed a standardized psychometric instrument for measuring a "sense of permanence" and employed the measure in a prospective 1-year study of health outcomes among 89 adolescent mothers and their infants. Psychosocial and demographic factors were significantly predictive of maternal, but not infant, health outcomes, and the sense of permanence appeared to operate as a "final common pathway" in the influence of psychosocial variables on health and illness end points. Results of the study underscore the importance of continuity and stability in childhood and suggest that changes in an individual's sense of permanence may underlie the previously documented health effects of stressful life events and social support.

(AJDC. 1991;145:267-273)