Doctoral Student Fellowship

Bryn King, School of Social Welfare

Adolescent Motherhood and the Child Welfare System: Risk of Childbearing Among Maltreated Female Youth Exposed to Foster Care



Adolescent mothers with a history of victimization often experience negative social and emotional sequelae across a number of domains, including a heightened risk for maltreating their own children. The child welfare system has a unique opportunity to intervene with female youth prior to the advent of pregnancy, which can support their well-being and prevent abuse and neglect in the next generation. Using linked birth records and administrative child welfare data, the proposed study will measure the incidence of a first birth among female youth who were maltreated and received child welfare services. It will also assess difference in childbearing risk if youth remained at home or entered foster care and will help to determine whether the intervention of foster care exacerbates or ameliorates the effect of abuse and neglect on the likelihood of early parenting. Child welfare experiences, types of maltreatment, demographic information, and individual and family level characteristics that predict future childbearing for girls who have been in foster care will also be examined. Lastly, multi-dimensional individual-level typologies of risk will be developed to better target policies and practices towards the goals of delaying parenting among foster youth and providing effective services and supports to foster youth that decide to parent during adolescence. This study will be the first to examine, at a population level, the simultaneous and cumulative effect of child maltreatment and placement into foster care on the reproductive health and parenting choices among female youth in California.