Published Papers - Abstract 216

Lee C & Gramotnev H. Predictors and outcomes of early motherhood in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. Psychology, Health and Medicine, 2006; 11(1): 29-47

Early motherhood is identified as a social problem, and having children at an early age is assumed to lead to psychological distress, welfare dependence and socioeconomic disadvantage. Analysis of responses from 9,689 young participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health was used to examine predictors and outcomes of early motherhood in Australia. Survey 1 (1996, aged 18-23) and Survey 2 (2000, aged 22-27), were used to categorise women as Childless, Existing Mothers (before Survey 1) and New Mothers (became mothers before Survey 2). Multivariate logistic regressions provided comparisons on sociodemographics, gynaecological variables, psychological wellbeing and health behaviours. Survey 1 data show that Existing Mothers experience socioeconomic disadvantages and unhealthy lifestyles. However, those who will go on to become mothers earlier than their peers already experience similar disadvantages. Further, the Survey 2 data show that, when these pre-existing disadvantages are controlled for, the additional deficits experienced by early mothers are relatively minor. Social disadvantage predisposes women to become mothers early, and to adopt unhealthy behaviours. However, young Australian women cope well with the challenges of early motherhood. In the longer term, unhealthy lifestyles and low education may lead to ill health and disadvantage, but early motherhood is not the initiator of this trajectory.