Rena Zito publishes article in journal Youth & Society

The sociology professor used nationally-representative data to examine the impact of teenage motherhood on transformations in life satisfaction, self-worth, and orientations towards the future, relationships and risk. 

Elon Professor Rena Zito recently had her article, “Children as Saviors? A Propensity Score Analysis of the Impact of Teenage Motherhood on Personal Transformation,” published in the peer-reviewed journal “Youth and Society.” 

The article by Zito, an assistant professor of sociology, stems from the fact that 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.

Zito’s study employed 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 more than 7,500 female respondents.

The study found 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, Zito reports that these results imply that accounts of transformation may be less about realized transformation than projecting competent identities that counter stigma.