Published Papers - Abstract 218

Lee C & Gramotnev H. Predictors and correlates of coping well with early motherhood in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. Psychology, Health and Medicine, 2006; 11(4): 411-424

Women who become mothers at an early age are characterised by socio-economic disadvantage and unhealthy lifestyles; however, some cope extremely well. This paper describes Australian women who become mothers at an early age, in order to identify factors that predict coping. The younger cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health was used to identify 1064 young women who became mothers between Survey 1 and Survey 2. These women were categorised on the basis of theMental Health Index of the SF-36 as having High, Normal or Low mental health. Survey 1 data were used to examine predictors, and Survey 2 data to examine correlates, of mental health. Surprisingly, few socio-demographic or health-related variables predict level of coping with early motherhood. Women who would have High mental health as mothers were likely to be in paid work, had few symptoms, and had low levels of stress. They were least likely to have a history of miscarriage and most likely to use contraception. There were no significant effects for other socio-demographic factors, or health-related behaviours. In the longer term, however, all young mothers may suffer an increasing level of disadvantage and distress relative to their peers.