Behavioral, developmental, and neural effects of a standardized mother-child intervention program in adolescent mothers and their children

In Germany about 7,500 babies are born each year to mothers below age 18 and 22,000 to mothers below age 20. Teenage pregnancy in Germany as in other industrialized countries is more common among individuals with a lower socioeconomic status and a poor education. Teenage mothers suffer more frequently from a history of highly burdensome/demanding experiences than adult mothers and from post-partum depression. A teenage mother’s early-life stress and stress factors such as financial concerns or poor education are assumed to influence and affect the parenting style of the teenagers and, consequently, children’s well-being. Parenting programs have been shown to improve a range of behaviors in teenage mothers, with enhancement of maternal sensitivity being the most significant. However, so far nothing is known about whether a child´s well-being can be increased by such interventions. Within the subproject of the University Hospital of the RWTH Aachen, a 9-month parenting program based on STEEP (Steps Towards Effective and Enjoyable Parenting) plus psychiatric treatment of the mother in case of mental illness will be compared with the standardized support given by the “Jugendamt” (child welfare office) in adolescent mothers. Extending previous studies the project will test whether both mothers and their infants (0-6 months old at the beginning of the training) profit from the intervention. A wide range of outcome variables such as maternal sensitivity or child well-being (e.g., language development, cognitive and socioemotional functioning, and physical development) will be investigated.

Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy 

project management: Prof. Dr. med. Beate Herpertz-Dahlmann, Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Kerstin Konrad
research associate: Brigitte Dahmen, Dr. PhD. Christine Firk, Anke Niessen, Dipl.-Päd. Julia Koslowski, Dipl.-Psych. Reinhild Schwarte, Dipl.-Päd. Kerstin Stich