Rena Zito presents at Eastern Sociological Society Conference

The assistant professor of sociology presented research on the causal effects of teenage motherhood on personal transformation

Rena Zito, assistant professor of sociology, presented a research talk titled “Children as Saviors? A Propensity Score Analysis of the Impact of Teenage Motherhood on Personal Transformation” at the Annual Meetings of the Eastern Sociological Society in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 18, 2016. The presentation appeared as part of the “Good Mothers: The Complexities of Motherhood” panel session.

Abstract: Teenage mothers often report immense personal benefits of children, claiming that motherhood reordered their priorities, provided a sense of purpose, and prevented a worse fate, yet the potentially beneficial impacts of early motherhood receive little empirical attention. This study employs propensity score analysis using nearest-neighbor matching to assess the causal effect of teenage motherhood on personal transformation (i.e., self-worth, life satisfaction, and orientation towards risk, the future, and relationships) using first- and third-wave National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health data from 7,563 female respondents. The study finds that teenage mothers are more risk-averse than similarly situated non-mothers. Contrary to qualitative narratives, though, adolescent mothers express lower global life satisfaction than their counterparts and do not differ from them in self-worth, future orientation, or relationship orientation. Excepting risk aversion, these results imply that accounts of transformation may be less about realized transformation than projecting competent identities that counter stigma.