Thursday, October 02, 2008

Black Teen Moms of the '60s Have Less Sympathy for Black Teen Moms Today

Katrina Bell McDonald and Elizabeth M. Armstrong of Johns Hopkins University went to a group of women who had been studied in a 1960s teen mothers study, and resurveyed at intervals since then. In 1996, on the eve of the current era of welfare reform, they asked these women, now in their 40s, to compare their experiences with those of teen mothers today - some of whom were their own daughters. In fact, 77% were already grandmothers, and 18% lived with their grandchildren.

The consensus of the women interviewed was that black teen moms don’t get the support today that these teen moms got in the ‘60s because teen pregnancy has been normalized in the poor black community. The community doesn’t rally 'round today they way they did then, because having babies seems less like a crisis for the family and more like a choice by the mothers. The older generation particularly disapproved of underclass culture; the former teen moms do not see themselves as having been part of the underclass. They think teen moms today (just pre-welfare reform) had become welfare-dependent in a way that ‘60s teen moms were not, when welfare offered less.

Like many grandparents, the women studied here thought that kids today are worse than they had been, so they have less sympathy for the younger generation's self-induced crisis. The former teen moms liked welfare reform because they thought it would make today’s teen moms more self-reliant.

Paradoxically, this self-reliance would, I think, make the former teen moms more willing to help.

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