Teenage Childbearing, Reproductive Justice, and Infant Mental Health




Sydney L. Hans and Barbara A. White

Brief Type

Journal Publication


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Reproductive justice advocates emphasize the rights of women to choose to have children, to decide the conditions under which they give birth, and to parent their children with support, safety, and dignity. This article examines what a reproductive justice perspective contributes to infant mental health work with teenage mothers and their families. It explores the historical framing of teenage pregnancy in which young mothers are the cause of a variety of social problems and in which the primary policy and practice approach is pregnancy prevention. The article offers alternative framings of teenage childbearing, based on reproductive justice principles, which focus on social conditions surrounding teenage parenthood and the meaning of motherhood in the lives of young women. These alternative frames shift the practice agenda to eradicating unjust social conditions and providing supports for young women in their roles as parents. The article then describes ways in which two infant mental health programs have incorporated reproductive justice principles into their work with young families: Chicago’s community doula model and Florida’s Young Parents Project for court-involved teenage parents. Finally, the article extracts a set of principles deriving from a reproductive justice perspective that are relevant to infant mental health work with young families. (author abstract)

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For More Information

Hans, S. L., & White, B. A. (2019). Teenage childbearing, reproductive justice, and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal, 40, 690–709. https://doi.org/10.1002/imhj.21803
Author Contact Information:
Sydney L. Hans


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