Mental Health For Adolescent Parents

It is normal for teen parents to have a wide range of emotional reactions to pregnancy:

  • They may consider being a parent as an achievement, and may not appreciate the demands and responsibility that comes with it.
  • They may express that they don’t want to keep their baby.
  • They may choose to be involved in the baby’s life in order to please their parent or loved one.
  • They may see the baby as a source of unconditional love.
  • They may develop depression and mental health concerns (anxiety, guilt, fear), which are common and more prevalent among teen parents.

At a time when they need support the most, adolescent pregnancy can cause rifts between the teen and their friends, from the teen’s own embarrassment and feelings of shame or from judgement (real or perceived) and even jealousy from peers. In addition, the pregnancy can cause significant stress and reactions of anger, denial and guilt – or in the extreme, abandonment – from the adolescent’s own parents. As a result, teen parents may isolate themselves or turn “inward”– or alternatively, may engage in high risk behaviors as a protective/coping mechanism.

These emotional challenges combined with the social stigma of an adolescent pregnancy, put teen parents (and their babies) at significantly higher risk for a host of mental health concerns, including:  depression and post-partum depression, anger management, and violence – in their own home, with their partners, and with their own children. 

Adolescent parents – as well as their own parents or guardians – should be regularly assessed for mental health risks (including at-risk behaviors and violence), and referred to mental health support resources as appropriate. Being proactive will help to identify struggling teens (before it is too late) to help prepare them for the stress of an adolescent pregnancy and demands of caring for a newborn.