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Advisory Committee Chair

Jean Ivey

Advisory Committee Members

Gwendolyn Childs

Ashley Hodges

William Somerall

Tina Simpson

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2013

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Nursing

Abstract

Introduction: Pregnancy during adolescence is potentially stressful due to the concurrent tasks of navigating the typically tumultuous adolescent stage of development and the life altering experience of pregnancy (Kaye, 2008). There is a growing body of research linking prenatal stress to poor birth and developmental outcomes such as premature birth and low birth weight infants (K. Keenan, Sheffield, & Boeldt, 2007; Mulder et al., 2002), which makes describing the relatively unexplored perceptions and experience of stress during adolescent pregnancy important. The life course framework, with its emphasis on social, environmental, and family risk factors, has implications for reducing disparities among pregnant adolescents and is used to frame this study. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to describe the adolescent's perception and experience of stress during pregnancy, and to illuminate which social, family, environmental, or any other experiences are deemed stressful to determine where interventions may be most needed and desired by the adolescent in hopes of impacting the negative sequelae associated with prenatal stress. Methods: Qualitative interviews were used to elicit a description of stress in pregnant adolescents aged 15-19 years from different socioeconomic and geographic groups. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the collected data. Results: Pregnant teens reported stress related to responses to the pregnancy by family and others, changes in their relationships and future plans, and other fears and concerns regarding dependence and safety. Perceived disruptions and changes in family and social relationships was the most frequently discussed topic and impacted the remaining themes. Conclusions: The study findings indicated that much of the stress experienced by the teens was relational in nature. Support of the family and social intervention are possible avenues of intervention that may improve the experience of stress in pregnant adolescents.

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