Twin Research and Human Genetics


The Association Between Teenage Motherhood and Poor Offspring Outcomes: A National Cohort Study Across 30 Years

Claire A. Coynea1 c1, Niklas Långströma2, Paul Lichtensteina2 and Brian M. D'Onofrioa1

a1 Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

a2 Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


Teenage motherhood is associated with poor offspring outcomes but these associations may be influenced by offspring birth year because of substantial social changes in recent decades. Existing research also has not examined whether these associations are due to the specific effect of mother's age at childbirth or factors shared by siblings in a family. We used a population-based cohort study in Sweden comprising all children born from 1960 to 1989 (N = 3,162,239), and a subsample of siblings differentially exposed to maternal teenage childbearing (N = 485,259) to address these limitations. We examined the effect of teenage childbearing on offspring violent and non-violent criminal convictions, poor academic performance, and substance-related problems. Population-wide teenage childbearing was associated with offspring criminal convictions, poor academic performance, and substance-related problems. The magnitude of these associations increased over time. Comparisons of differentially exposed siblings indicated no within-family association between teenage childbearing and offspring violent and non-violent criminal convictions or poor academic performance, although offspring born to teenage mothers were more likely to experience substance-related problems than their later-born siblings. Being born to a teenage mother in Sweden has become increasingly associated with negative outcomes across time, but the nature of this association may differ by outcome. Teenage childbearing may be associated with offspring violent and non-violent criminal convictions and poor academic performance because of shared familial risk factors, but may be causally associated with offspring substance-related problems. The findings suggest that interventions to improve offspring outcomes should delay teenage childbearing and also target risk factors influencing all offspring of teenage mothers.

(Received December 18 2012)

(Accepted February 28 2013)


  • teenage childbearing;
  • teenage motherhood;
  • criminal behavior;
  • substance use;
  • academic attainment;
  • academic achievement


c1 address for correspondence: Claire A. Coyne, Indiana University, 1101 E. 10th St., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA. E-mail: