Young and Poor: The Well-Being of Adolescent Girls Living in Families Receiving Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) Program

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adolescent girls, well-being, poverty, welfare, TANF

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We present our findings on the current well-being of 125 adolescent girls living in families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) in terms of their health, mental health, and substance abuse status, academic performance, and teenage behaviors. This mixed-method study included separate structured face-to-face interviews with each adolescent and her mother. In addition, 20 daughters were randomly selected and completed more in-depth qualitative interviews. The findings suggest that generally the daughters were in good physical health although they reported mental health problems at about twice the rate that would be expected in a general pediatric sample. Further, about 3–5% of the daughters had a potential serious substance abuse problem. With respect to school, about 28% were not currently attending school although the majority of daughters who were attending school maintained a B average or better. Nearly two-thirds of the daughters reported being sexually active and almost 17% of the adolescents had children of their own, much higher than the 2.9% national rate of girls in this age cohort. While many of these daughters’ life circumstances may not be optimal, findings from both the quantitative and qualitative interviews with both mothers and daughters indicate that these daughters possess many strengths, abilities, and desires.

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Journal of Child and Family Studies, v. 14, issue 1, p. 141–154