Publication - Research and analysis

The Experiences of Mothers Aged Under 20: Analysis of Data From the Growing up in Scotland Study

Published: 20 Feb 2014
ISBN:
9781784122676

Analysis of Growing Up in Scotland data on the circumstances of first-time mothers in Scotland who were aged under 20 at the time of the child’s birth. Data collected up to the child’s sixth birthday were used to compare these circumstances with those of mothers who were aged 20 to 24 and aged 25 or older at the time of their child’s birth.

The Experiences of Mothers Aged Under 20: Analysis of Data From the Growing up in Scotland Study
3 Household, Family And Relationships

3 Household, Family And Relationships

Introduction

3.1 The next chapter describes the people and relationships that exist around the mother. The first section enumerates the different household compositions of mothers of different ages considering, for example, whether she lives with the child's father, how many other adults and children live in the household and who they are in relation to the child. The second section considers the mother's key relationships both within and beyond the household - with her partner or the child's non-resident parent, with friends and family members. Consideration is also given to differences in the extent that younger and older mothers feel supported by this informal social network.

Key findings

  • When the child is aged 10 months, mothers aged under 20 were less likely to be living with the child's father. The figures are quite different by age on this measure. 30% of mothers aged under 20 live with the child's father compared with 56% of those in their early twenties and 89% of those aged 25 or older.
  • By the child's sixth birthday, mothers aged under 20 are still more likely than older mothers to be lone parents. However, a significant number who were lone parents when the child was aged two, now have partners.
  • At age 2, the vast majority of mothers - across all age groups - still have only one child. By age 6, 41% of mothers aged under 20 have two children and 18% have three or more compared with 53% and 8% respectively for mothers aged 20-24 and 57% and 9% for those aged 25 or older.
  • Mothers aged under 20 are particularly more likely to live in the same household as a grandparent of the child. Most likely because they are living in their own childhood home. The proportion reduces over time - from 21% at age two to 9% at age six.
  • Younger mothers are more likely than older mothers to live in both smaller and larger households. 38% of those aged under 20 live with the child only and 15% live with five or more people compared with just 8% and 2% of mothers aged 25 or older.
  • Mothers of all ages report feeling close to most of their family, a position which does not change over time. However, there are differences by maternal age in relation to friendships which appear, on the whole, weaker for younger mothers (aged under 25) than older mothers. Again, this trend remains over time.
  • Younger mothers also tend to report a smaller group of close friends than older mothers. This changes steadily with maternal age; it is less common amongst those in their early twenties and least common amongst those aged 25 or older.
  • Amongst those families where the child's father is not resident, all children, irrespective of their mother's age, are just as likely to have some contact with their father.
  • Amongst those mothers who live with a partner, younger mothers - and particularly teenagers - appear to have more difficult relationships with their partners than do older mothers.

Household composition

Resident and non-resident parents

3.2 The composition of the household in which mothers aged under 20 live differ greatly from those of mothers aged 20 or older. 89% of mothers aged 25 or older live with the child's biological father compared with 30% of those aged under 20 (Figure 3-A, Table 3.1). Mothers in their early twenties are a little more similar to those aged under 20 in this characteristic than they are to those aged 25 or older.

Figure 3-A % of mothers who were living with the child's natural father when child was aged 10 months, by maternal age at child's birth

Figure 3-A % of mothers who were living with the child's natural father when child was aged 10 months, by maternal age at child's birth

3.3 The proportion of mothers who lived in a household with their child's biological father changes little as the child ages, but changes differently for mothers in different age groups (Table 3.2). Whilst the proportion of mothers aged under 20 living with the child's biological father increased from 32% at age two to 38% by age six, the proportion of mothers in the older categories who did so decreased slightly from 92% to 88% over the same period.

3.4 The biological father living elsewhere does not always mean the mother is living without a partner. In practice, however, the figures are very similar and younger mothers are significantly more likely than older mothers to be single parents. When the child was aged 10 months, 33% of mothers aged under 20 lived with a partner compared with 90% of mothers aged 25 or older (Table 3.3).

3.5 Table 3.4 shows the distribution of lone parent and couple families by maternal age at ages 2, 4 and 6. For mothers aged under 20, the proportion of lone parent families reduces over time. When the child is aged 2, 36% of mothers aged under 20 were in couple families, increasing to 55% by age six. The proportion of mothers in their early twenties in couple families remains relatively stable as the child ages, increasing only slightly from 62% at age two to 68% at age six. However, whilst the gap between mothers under 20 and those aged 25 or over in prevalence of lone parenthood has reduced by age six, vast differences nevertheless remain at this point. Mothers aged under 20 are over three times more likely than those aged 25 or older to be in lone parent families (45% compared with 10%).

3.6 The increase in the proportion of mothers aged under 20 living in couple families indicates that some have new partners. Indeed, the data in Table 3.5 shows that mothers aged under 20 were much more likely than older mothers to report, at multiple ages, that they had a new parent or partner living in the household in last 12 months (9% for age two, 11% at age four and 6% at age 5 compared with 1% of mothers aged 25 or older at all ages).

Adults and children in the household

3.7 The total number of adults and children living in the household also differs by maternal age. Table 3.6 shows the total number of people living in the household when the child was aged 10 months, whilst Table 3.7 and Table 3.10 break this number down into adults and children.

3.8 When the child is aged 10 months, the majority of mothers aged 20 and above have three people in the household (53% for those aged 20 to 24 and 84% for those aged 25 and above). This is usually the mother, her partner and the child. In contrast, mothers aged under 20 are most likely (38%) to have just two people in the household - the mother and her child - though many (34%) live in a household of three people.

3.9 Mothers aged under 20 are more likely than older mothers to live in households with more children. When the child is aged 10 months, 13% of mothers under 20 live in households with two or more children, including 4% with three children. In contrast, 5% of mothers aged 25 or older live in a household with two children and less than 1% live with three or more. This analysis counts all children in the household and not just those for whom the respondent is a natural parent. Thus for younger mothers, these other children may be their own siblings - because she is living in her parent's home. Otherwise, and for all mothers, they may be a partner's children.

3.10 Table 3.8 shows that the total number of children in the household increased for mothers in all age groups. At age two, there were no significant differences in number of children by mother's age group, suggesting that earlier differences at age 10 months have evened out. When their first child was aged four, around half (52%) of mothers aged 25 or older lived with two children compared with 35% of mothers aged under 20 and 38% of those in their early twenties. By age six the gap had decreased a little. 57% of mothers in their late twenties and older lived in households with two children compared with 41% of mothers aged under 20 and 51% of mothers in their early twenties.

3.11 At all stages, mothers aged under 20 were more likely than older mothers to live in households with three or more children. For example, at age four 10% did so, increasing to 20% by age six. In comparison, just 3% of mothers in the oldest age group lived with three or more children when the cohort child was aged four increasing to 11% at age six.

3.12 Further analysis was undertaken to determine how many children in the household at ages two, four and six were biological offspring of the child's mother. In so doing, this can provide some indication of differences in the period between first and subsequent births for younger and older mothers.[20] The results are shown in Table 3.9 and Figure 3-B. As may be expected, they reflect patterns in the earlier data which included all children in the household. When the child is aged two, the vast majority of all mothers still only live with one natural child. However, 11% of mothers aged under 20 had a further natural child living with them in the household. This proportion is similar to that amongst mothers in their early twenties but slightly lower than mothers aged 25 or older, 14% of whom had a second child living with them.

3.13 When their first child is aged four, patterns of subsequent births amongst mothers under 20 appear fairly similar to those amongst mothers aged 20-24 but quite different to mothers aged 25 or older. 36% of mothers aged under 20 have a further natural child living with them and 6% have a further two. The figures for those aged 20 to 24 are 40% and 3% respectively whilst amongst those aged 25 or older are 51% have one further natural child living with them and 3% have a further two. Perhaps the most significant difference amongst mothers under 20 occurs when their first child is aged six. At this point, 18% of mothers under 20 live with three or more natural children (suggesting two subsequent births since their first child) compared with 8% of mothers in their early twenties and 9% of mothers aged 25 or older.

Figure 3-B Number of children living in the household, including the cohort child, who are the mother's offspring (number of mother's subsequent live births[21]) when child is aged 2, 4 and 6, by mothers age at child's birth

Figure 3-B Number of children living in the household, including the cohort child, who are the mother's offspring (number of mother's subsequent live births) when child is aged 2, 4 and 6, by mothers age at child's birth

3.14 In relation to the number of adults in the household it is notable that mothers aged under 20 are significantly more likely than those aged 20 or older to live in households with just a single adult (this being the mother herself) and with more than two adults (mainly in cases where the mother lives with her own parents - the child's grandparents). When the child was aged 10 months, 39% of mothers aged under 20 lived in single adult households compared with 28% of those in their early twenties and just 8% of mothers aged 25 or older. 23% of mothers aged under 20 lived in households with three or more adults compared with 17% of those in their early twenties and 4% of those aged 25 or above (Table 3.10).

3.15 As the child ages, all mothers become more similar in the extent to which there are three or more adults in the household (as those aged 20 or under move out of their parental home into their own accommodation). However, mothers aged under 20 are still significantly more likely than older mothers to be in single adult households at all time points (Table 3.11).

3.16 In addition, mothers aged 20 or older - particularly those aged 25 or above - are significantly less likely than mothers aged under 20 to have a grandparent of the child living in the household. Just 4% of mothers aged 25 or older lived in the same household as at least one of the child's grandparents compared with 31% of mothers aged under 20 (Table 3.12).

3.17 The proportion of mothers living in households with the child's grandparent reduces over time (Table 3.13). For mothers aged under 20, the figure decreased from 21% at age two, to 13% at age four and 9% by age six. Amongst mothers aged 25 and over figures are more stable though they decrease slightly, from 3% when the child was two years old to 1% at age six. A significant difference in the proportion of children living in households with grandparents by maternal age still exists at age six.

Social networks and relationships

Marital status

3.18 As shown in Table 3.14, when the child was aged 10 months, the vast majority of mothers aged under 20 (96%) and most of those in their early twenties (85%) were single and had never been married. In contrast, mother's over the age of 25 were mostly married and living with their husband (61% compared with 3% of mothers aged under 20) with 34% being single and never married.

3.19 When the child was aged two, 3% of mothers aged under 20 were married or in a civil partnership compared with 71% of mothers aged 25 or older. The proportion of mothers aged 25 or older who were married or in a civil partnership and living together remained relatively stable as the children aged, increasing only slightly to 74% at ages four and six. For mothers aged under 20, however, the proportion married or in a civil partnership increased to 7% at age four and then more sharply to 17% at age six. Figures for mothers in their early twenties also increased, but by a smaller margin - from 28% at age two to 37% at age six (Table 3.15).

Relationship with partner

3.20 In the self-complete module of the questionnaire, mothers living with a partner when the child was 10 months old were asked a series of questions about the relationship with that partner. The questions are intended to measure the level of conflict in the relationship. Details of the questions and their results are included in (Table 3.16). Figures in the table indicate the proportion of mothers who said the behaviour described occurred either 'sometimes' or 'often' in their relationship.

3.21 The majority of mothers who lived with a partner reported swearing at their partner and their partner swearing at them. This was more prevalent amongst mothers aged under 20 (around 91% on both measures) than mothers aged 25 or older (71% had swore at their partner and 63% partners had swore at the mother). Insulting a partner or being insulted was much less common overall. However it was still more likely among younger mothers than older mothers. 18% of mothers aged under 20 said they had been insulted by their partner in front of others compared with 6% of those aged 25 or older.

3.22 To obtain an overall picture of the level of conflict in the relationship, a scale was created combining responses on all questions. For each question, a score of 0 was given if the response was 'never', 1 if they said 'sometimes' and 2 if they answered 'often'. The scores of each answer were then summed to create a total score. The total range was then separated into three groups indicating a high, middle and low conflict (Table 3.17).

3.23 Mothers aged under 20 were more likely than older mothers to score in the high conflict range. 56% were classified as having a high conflict relationship, compared with 44% of those in their early twenties and 36% in the oldest group. And whilst 24% of mothers aged 25 or older had low conflict relationships, this was also the case for just 8% of mothers aged under 20.

Contact with non-resident parent

3.24 In cases where the child has a non-resident biological father at 10 months of age, the proportion in contact with their father was similar across all age groups, at 72% (Table 3.18). Frequency of contact between the child and his/her father was also similar, though children with mothers aged under 20 did have contact slightly more frequently (Table 3.19). 39% of children with mothers aged under 20 saw their non-resident father every day compared with 30% of children whose mothers were aged 25 and older.

Close friends and family

3.25 At 10 months, younger mothers had smaller friendship networks than did older mothers. 33% of mothers aged under 20 had fewer than three close friends compared with 13% of mothers aged 25 and over (Table 3.20). In contrast, 40% of mothers in the oldest group had six or more close friends compared with 17% of mothers aged under 20.

3.26 The majority of mothers of all ages reported strong relationships with their friends when the child was aged two and four. However, as well as having fewer close friends, mothers under 20 also appeared to have marginally weaker friendships. When asked, when the child was aged two, if they felt their friends took notice of their opinion, a greater proportion of mothers aged 25 or older (86% compared with 78% of mothers aged under 20 at age two) agreed (Table 3.21). Despite this, mothers aged under 20 were not any more likely to feel their friends did not take notice of their opinion. Instead, they were more likely than older mothers to 'neither agree nor disagree' with the statement (18% of mothers aged under 20 compared with 13% of mothers aged 25 or older). There was little change in the spread of the results at age four.

3.27 It appears that having fewer friends and weaker friendships for younger mothers may be compensated by stronger relationships with family members. At ages two and four, mothers were asked whether they had close relationships with lots of people, some people, one or two people or no close relationships. These close relationships could be with friends or family members. This data indicate that at age two, mothers aged under 20 were more likely than those aged 25 or older to say that they had close relationships with lots of people (43% compared with 32%, Table 3.22). By age four, however, the figure amongst mothers aged under 20 had decreased to 38% whilst the figure for mothers aged 25 or older remained similar (31%), reducing the difference between the two groups. The proportion of mothers in their early twenties reporting lots of close relationships was similar to that for mothers under 20 (40% at age two and 42% at age four). Very few mothers of any age reported no close relationships.

3.28 Neither were there any statistically significant differences in the extent to which mothers of different ages agreed that they were close to their family (Table 3.23) with the majority (85% of all mothers) agreeing they were at ages two and four.

3.29 Only small differences were found in the level of support that mothers felt they received though younger mothers reported slightly greater support (Table 3.24). At ages two and four - though more so at age four - mothers under 20 were more likely than older mothers to feel that they 'got enough help' from friends and family (at age four, 83% compared with 77%). There was little notable change between the two age points.


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Email: Liz Levy