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Citation:Luster, T., Bates, L., Fitzgerald, H., Vandenbelt, M., & Key, J. P. (2000). Factors related to successful outcomes among preschool children born to low-income adolescent mothers. Journal of Marriage & Family, 62(1), 133-146.

Why are some children born to adolescent mothers successful while others are not? The purpose of this study is to look at this high-risk population (low-income, adolescent mothers) and describe how the experiences and circumstances of the most successful children differed from the experiences and circumstances of the least successful children. The study found that the most successful and least successful children received very different caregiving and lived in markedly different contexts. The most successful children experienced much more supportive care, were more likely to be living with their father (or a father figure), lived in neighborhoods that were rated as safer and higher in quality, and were read to more often. Children scoring in the lowest quartile had lower birth weights on average than those scoring in the top quartile. The mothers of the most successful children went farther in school, were more likely to be employed at the 54-month assessment, appeared to have a more favorable family background, and had fewer children on average. Four case studies are also presented in the article to provide insight and concrete examples. The sample consisted of 86 at-risk children. When the children were 54 months old and about to make the transition to kindergarten, they were assessed using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised. Children were grouped into the most successful (scoring in the top quartile, 22 children) and the least successful (scoring in the lowest quartile, 22 children). The children were firstborn children of adolescent mothers who were involved in the Family TIES support program. The mothers were adolescents (mean age 16), over half African American (58%), and nearly all were unmarried at the beginning of the study (96%). All mothers were from low-income families and had not yet completed high school at the beginning of the study. Measures were taken of the home environment, the motherÕs parenting practices, maternal characteristics (school success and psychological well being), contextual factors (neighborhood environment, etc.), family background, and the childÕs birth weight (as an indicator of health at the beginning of life). Assessments were made throughout the childÕs life, starting at the time of enrollment continuing until 54 months. This study does not include any school achievement data which would be informative to extend the findings into school success. Since this is a descriptive study the findings are not generalizable to all school contexts. The study does provide insight into the variation of success among this low-risk population.

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