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Dropout prevention programs for teen mothers

Evidence Rating

Scientifically Supported

Health Factors

Dropout prevention programs for teenage mothers typically offer multiple services such as remedial education, vocational training, case management, health care, transportation assistance, and child care. Some dropout prevention programs focus on attendance monitoring interventions, which can include contingencies or financial incentives for mothers to attend school, for example, making welfare receipt contingent on school attendance. Dropout prevention programs for teenage mothers are usually comprehensive and intense and last about a year. Such programs are also usually conducted in multiple community settings rather than exclusively at school (Campbell-Wilson 2011). In 2014, there were 24.2 births for every 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. Nationwide, half of all teenage mothers do not graduate from high school (CDC-Teen Pregnancy). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased high school graduation

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced teen pregnancy

  • Improved health outcomes

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that dropout prevention programs for teenage mothers, specifically multi-service programs and attendance monitoring programs, increase graduation rates (Campbell-Wilson 2011, CG-TFR Education, Steinka-Fry 2013).

Multi-service programs substantially increase the likelihood that teenage mothers will graduate from high school, with or without financial incentives to bolster attendance. On average, such programs increase graduation rates by 11 to 13 percentage points (Campbell-Wilson 2011, CG-TFR Education). Attendance monitoring and contingency programs that include mentoring services also increase graduation rates among pregnant and parenting students by 12 percentage points, on average (CG-TFR Education).

Research suggests that nurse home visiting programs that include life skills and educational counseling can increase graduation rates among teenage mothers (). Teen-Tot programs that offer counseling and medical care have been shown to help mothers graduate, decrease repeat pregnancies, and improve infant health outcomes in some circumstances (Akinbami 2001). 

Implementation challenges can reduce the effectiveness of dropout prevention programs for pregnant or parenting students. Low program attendance and completion rates, administrative challenges (e.g., staffing, record access, eligibility, or bonus/sanction processing), and staff reluctance to discuss sexual behavior and birth control use with teen participants are common challenges to program implementation (Steinka-Fry 2013).

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

Various dropout prevention programs for teenage mothers are implemented in school districts and communities across the country (CDC-Teen Pregnancy). In 2010, 17 states received federal funding through pregnancy assistance grants for dropout prevention and continuing education efforts that support pregnant and parenting teens (NCSL-Teen pregnancy).

Implementation Resources

Healthy Teen Network - Healthy Teen Network (HTN). Making a difference in the lives of teens and young families.

WI DPI-School-age parents - Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). School-age parents.

NDPC-Resources - National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC) at Clemson University. Resources.

Citations - Evidence

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Campbell-Wilson 2011 - Wilson SJ, Tanner-Smith EE, Lipsey MW, Steinka-Fry KT, Morrison J. Dropout prevention and intervention programs: Effects on school completion and dropout among school-aged children and youth: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2011:8.

Koniak-Griffin 2000* - Koniak-Griffin D, Anderson N, Verzemnieks I, Brecht ML. A public health nursing early intervention program for adolescent mothers: Outcomes from pregnancy through 6 weeks postpartum. Nursing Research. 2000;49(3):130-8.

Akinbami 2001 - Akinbami LJ, Cheng TL, Kornfeld D. A review of teen-tot programs: Comprehensive clinical care for young parents and their children. Adolescence. 2001;36(142):381-93.

CG-TFR Education - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Task Force Recommends (TFR) Education Programs to Promote Health Equity.

Steinka-Fry 2013 - Steinka-Fry KT, Wilson SJ, Tanner-Smith EE. Effects of school dropout prevention programs for pregnant and parenting adolescents: A meta-analytic review. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research. 2013;4(4):373–389.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

CDC-Teen Pregnancy - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Teen pregnancy: The importance of prevention.

NCSL-Teen pregnancy - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Teen pregnancy affects graduation rates: State policy options.

Date Last Updated

Jul 6, 2016