Dropout prevention programs for teen mothers

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

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 school1. 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 school2

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased high school completion

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Reduced teen pregnancy

  • Improved health outcomes

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that dropout prevention programs for teenage mothers, specifically multi-service programs and attendance monitoring programs, increase high school completion rates1, 3, 4.

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 high school completion rates by 11 to 13 percentage points1, 3. Attendance monitoring and contingency programs that include mentoring services also increase completion rates among pregnant and parenting students by 12 percentage points, on average3.

Research suggests that nurse home visiting programs that include life skills and educational counseling can increase high school graduation rates among teenage mothers5. 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 circumstances6

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 implementation4.

Implementation Examples

Various dropout prevention programs for teenage mothers are implemented in school districts and communities across the country2. In 2010, 17 states received federal funding through pregnancy assistance grants for dropout prevention and continuing education efforts that support pregnant and parenting teens7.

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 (WI DPI). School-age parents.

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


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1 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.

2 CDC-Teen pregnancy - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Reproductive health: Teen pregnancy.

3 CG-TFR Education - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Task Force Recommends (TFR) center-based early childhood education programs (ECE) to improve educational outcomes that are associated with long-term health as well as social- and health-related outcomes.

4 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.

5 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):130-138.

6 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):381-393.

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