Relations Among Adolescent Motherhood, Caregiving Experience, and Perceptual and Caregiving Responses to Infant Cries
Deficits in parenting behavior in adolescent mothers could be due to the adolescent mother's perception of her infant's behavior. The aim of this study was to compare how adolescent and adult mothers perceive the crying behavior of their newborns. The 19 adolescent and 18 adult mothers listened to a tape recording of their infants' crying and rated the characteristics of the cry on 12 seven-point scales. The sample included newborns with normal growth and newborns with compromised growth. Acoustic characteristics of the cries were extracted by computer. Adult mothers rated the cries of their infants with compromised growth toward the negative end of the scales. By contrast, adolescent mothers rated the cries of their infants with compromised growth toward the positive end of the scales. Acoustic analysis showed that the cries of the infants with compromised growth were higher pitched and more variable than the cries of infants with normal growth. Correlations between the cry ratings and the acoustic analysis showed that for adult mothers, higher pitched and more variable cries were associated with negative ratings. For adolescent mothers, higher pitched and more variable cries were associated with more positive ratings. The findings suggest that adolescent mothers differ in the perception of their infant's behavior, which may have implications for later parenting behavior.