Adolescent childbearing and welfare experience: Transitions into and out of dependency

Harris, Kathleen Mullan.  University of Pennsylvania. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1988. 8816177.

Abstract (summary)

This research examines the dynamics of welfare dependency within a sample of adolescent mothers for a period of 17 years following their first teenage birth. Using the Baltimore Study data, the processes of entering and exiting dependency are described by explaining the determinants of welfare transitions. Individual characteristics, important life decisions, and life events that occur to the young mother throughout her parental life course have a dynamic impact on welfare transitions and length of receipt. These same factors describe the different welfare careers of the adolescent childbearers in the Baltimore data.

Event history models are employed to analyze the transitions into and out of dependency. Entry and exit rates of transition are examined by sample characteristics in bivariate analyses. Multivariate event history analyses then identify the primary causes of welfare entry and exit.

Although two-thirds of the Baltimore mothers entered dependency during the study, half of all initial spells were over within 2 years and chronic dependence was rare. A third of the women who exited welfare returned for another spell. However, repeat spells ended more rapidly than initial spells.

Transitions into initial dependency occurred soon after the first birth and were caused primarily by marital dissolution. Returning to school, an additional birth, and job loss also determined initial entry. Return entry was caused primarily by loss of job. To a lesser extent, marital breakup and a large family also predicted recidivism.

Transitions out of dependency occurred through work and marriage. A high school education further enhanced the probability of exiting. A large family prevented mothers from leaving welfare mainly because preschool children made it difficult for women to work.

Mothers with strong resources and high motivation finished their high school education, limited additional fertility, and had brief stays on welfare. Women with disadvantaged resources and low motivation had deficiencies in education, few job skills, and experienced persistent dependency. The acceleration of additional life careers, such as marriage or work, often led to economic instability and a revolving door pattern of welfare behavior. However, through accumulation of work experience, persistent dependents and recidivists eventually exit welfare permanently.

Indexing (details)

Families & family life;
Personal relationships;
0938: Demographics
0628: Families & family life
0628: Personal relationships
0628: Sociology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences
Adolescent childbearing and welfare experience: Transitions into and out of dependency
Harris, Kathleen Mullan
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 49/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Furstenberg, Frank F., Jr.
University of Pennsylvania
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL