Teen childbearing and offspring internalizing symptoms: The mediating role of child maltreatment

Justin Russotti, Fred A. Rogosch, Elizabeth D. Handley, Kathryn Z. Douthit, Andre Marquis, Dante Cicchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Teenage childbearing (age 15-19 years) represents a significant public health issue that can generate considerable deleterious, multigenerational consequences for teen-childbearing mothers and their offspring. However, few studies have examined the potential mediating mechanisms that may explain if and how teen childbearing is associated with the development of offspring psychopathology. The current study used a developmental model to test the mediating role of chronic child maltreatment in the relationship between teen childbearing and offspring internalizing symptoms in childhood and emerging adulthood. The study participants were 384 individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged, ethnically diverse backgrounds, assessed across two longitudinal waves of data (i.e., ages 10-12 and 18-20). The sample included maltreated and nonmaltreated children, all of whom were comparable in terms of family income. Structural equation modeling was conducted to test direct and indirect pathways from teen childbearing to offspring psychopathology. A multigenerational developmental cascade was found such that individuals born to mothers who began their childbearing in adolescence were more likely to experience chronic maltreatment during childhood, which in turn predicted greater internalizing symptoms throughout childhood and emerging adulthood. Using a developmental psychopathology framework, the results are discussed with regard to implications for prevention and early intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1184-1196
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number4
Early online dateMay 22 2020
StatePublished - Oct 14 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01-DA01774 to Fred A. Rogosch and Dante Cicchetti) for their support of this work.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 Cambridge University Press.


  • child maltreatment
  • internalizing
  • offspring psychopathology
  • teen childbearing
  • teen pregnancy


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