Young mothers focus of new research

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Public Health Minister Michael Matheson today pledged to do more to support young mothers and continue to reduce the rate of unplanned teenage pregnancy in Scotland.

The Minister was speaking following the publication the Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) study, which showed that less than a fifth of mothers aged under 20 have qualifications at Higher level or above.

Only 17 per cent of first-time mothers surveyed aged under 20 had higher-level qualifications, compared to 50 per cent of mothers in their early twenties and 80 per cent of those aged 25 or over.

Over the last four years, rates of teenage pregnancy have seen a consistent decline in Scotland and particularly in the under 16s, which has reduced by nearly 30 per cent.

Following a visit to Kirkcaldy High School, where teachers and health professionals are delivering a relationship and sexual health education programme that has seen pregnancy rates in under 16s in the area fall by a third, Mr Matheson said:

“There is some great work already being done at a local level, such as in Kirkcaldy High School, to help teenagers foster healthier attitudes towards relationships and sexual health – and it is really encouraging to see young people responding to these efforts.

“As well as focusing on prevention of unplanned pregnancies, we need to be doing all we can to support young mothers during pregnancy and following birth. The evidence shows that these are the most vulnerable groups and are likely to face significant disadvantages both economically and educationally. It is important to have measures in place that can break this cycle of poverty and ensure that children growing up in Scotland have the best possible start in life, with access to the same opportunities across the board.

“The fact that the authors of the study suggest that widening the availability of affordable childcare would likely support younger mothers to access education or employment is significant. Yesterday, Parliament passed the Children and Young People Bill, which will deliver more funded, flexible early learning and childcare, providing at least 600 hours a year for three and four year olds and the most vulnerable 2 year olds.”

Paul Bradshaw, Senior Research Director at ScotCen, said: “What this analysis makes abundantly clear is that from the very earliest stages of pregnancy and throughout the first six years of their child’s life, mothers aged under 20 are considerably more likely than older mothers to experience significant disadvantage in relation to health, income, employment and other areas of their lives and that this persistent and multiple disadvantage has an adverse impact their children’s outcomes.

“Other analysis from the Growing Up in Scotland Study suggest that it’s not the age of the mother that drives child outcomes but the fact that younger mothers have a more challenging starting point that makes it more difficult for them to achieve the security and stability that they and their children need.

“The research also shows that young mothers have specific needs in terms of the support they require and how it should be delivered. With the right support in place, opportunities and outcomes for younger mothers and their children could be greatly improved.”