The process of intergenerational childrearing among urban African-American adolescent mothers and grandmothers during the transition to parenthood

Date of Completion

January 1997


Black Studies|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




The purpose of the study was to describe the transition to parenthood for urban African American adolescent mothers and grandmothers during the period of infancy. Key variables were operationalized and tested through an adapted version of Belsky's (1984) Determinants of Parenting Process Model, which states that parental personal resources, child characteristics and contextual sources of stress and support all contribute to parental adaptation during the transition to parenthood.^ Independent variables included the personal characteristics of the mother and grandmother (age, cognitive developmental orientation, self esteem, sense of mastery), the mothers' and grandmothers' perception of the infant's temperament (difficultness), and contextual sources of support and stress for the adolescent mother and grandmother (family support, social network support, stressful life events). Dependent variables were measures of the adolescent mothers' perceived parental competence and ability to remain in school.^ A paid convenience sample of 53 urban low income African American adolescent mothers (mean age = 16.4 years) and their mothers or mother-figures (mean age = 39.2 years) were surveyed and interviewed. All adolescents were enrolled in school, coresided with their mothers, and had healthy full term infants between 4-8 months old.^ Hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicated that adolescent mothers' variables including self esteem and mastery explained 41% of the variance in their parental competence scores. Grandmothers' self esteem explained 42% of the variance in adolescent mothers' parental competence. A final combined regression equation demonstrated that adolescent mothers' mastery and grandmothers' self esteem accounted for 65% of the variance in adolescent mothers' parental competence. No variables in the model predicted adolescent mothers' school attendance.^ Descriptive analyses of interview data revealed that mothers and grandmothers relied heavily on extended family members for social support and reported using a shared caregiving model for infant care. Lack of child care and financial hardship were significant stressors for the family systems. Grandmothers described improved mother-daughter relationships after the infant's birth and some creative strategies for negotiating the shared parenting responsibilities, although many in the sample reported using few or no coping or negotiating skills during this transitional period. ^