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Reducing the Stigmatization of Teen Mothers

SmithBattle, Lee I. PhD, RN

MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: July/August 2013 - Volume 38 - Issue 4 - p 235–241
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e3182836bd4
Feature: CE Connection

Teen mothers are stigmatized by stereotypes that they are unmotivated, irresponsible, and incompetent parents. In spite of the pervasiveness of these stereotypes, stigma is rarely described as a contributing factor to teen mothers' difficulties and their health and social disparities. After tracing how teen mothers have been misrepresented and stereotyped over the last half century, I describe what is known about the stigma associated with teen mothering, reasons for its persistence, efforts to reduce it, and its potentially harmful effects. Stigma should be of concern to nurses because stigmatizing practices impede effective clinical care, contribute to teen mothers' many challenges, and violate the nursing ethic that patients be treated with respect and dignity. Recommendations for restoring dignity and reducing stigma in healthcare focus on developing recognition practices that are predicated on respect and concern for the teen's well-being and her capacity as a mother. Nurses are also urged to advocate for services and policies that reduce the stigmatization and marginalization of teen mothers.

Nurses are urged to advocate for services and policies that reduce the stigmatization and marginalization of teen mothers.

Lee I. SmithBattle is a Professor at Saint Louis University, School of Nursing, St. Louis, MO. She can be reached via e-mail at smithli@slu.edu.

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

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© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.