The Impact of Early Childbirth on Socioeconomic Outcomes and Risk Indicators of Females Transitioning Out of Foster Care

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Few studies have documented the relationship between early childbirth and the adjustment of females transitioning out of foster care. In this study, data from the National Youth in Transition Database were used to evaluate the associations between childbirth at three time points (prior to age 17, ages 17–19, and ages 19–21) and females’ socioeconomic outcomes and risk indicators at age 21 (n = 3173). Findings revealed that over 40% of females had given birth at least once by age 21, with a substantial increase in birth rates from adolescence to early adulthood. Multivariate analyses showed that childbirth between ages 17 and 19 and between ages 19 and 21 was associated with decreased likelihood of obtaining a high school diploma/GED or higher. However, only most recent childbirth (between ages 19 and 21) was associated with decreased likelihood of employment and increased likelihood of receiving public assistance. Contrary to the hypothesis, childbirth was unrelated to homelessness, substance abuse referrals and incarceration at age 21, once earlier presence of such risks was taken into account. Overall, while childbirth between ages 19 and 21 was linked to negative socioeconomic outcomes as females entered young adulthood, earlier births did not appear to confer a unique, prospective risk for the majority of the variables studied. These findings underscore the importance of expanding specialized services designed to promote educational and vocational opportunities for young mothers transitioning out of foster care, especially in the first years following childbirth. The importance of targeting foster youth for pregnancy prevention programs will also be discussed.



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