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University of Bath

Vulnerable young parents

This project explored the issues faced by parents under the age of 25 through a review of available literature and analysis of data from the Next Steps survey.

This research was commissioned by Action for Children to consider the difficulties faced by not only teenage parents, but also older young parents in their early 20’s who are an often neglected group in social and economic policy.

Previous interventions have focussed on teenage pregnancy reduction, creating a policy landscape focussed on prevention with limited attention to support for young parents, especially for older young parents in their early 20’s. The aim of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy was to halve the rate of teenage pregnancy by 2010 which was achieved in 2013 and therefore has been deemed a great public health success. Since this time there has been little policy consideration of the needs of teenage or young people who do become parents.

The study involved a literature review undertaken by Marsha Wood at the Institute for Policy Research (IPR), which synthesised research and evidence on issues affecting young parents, such as education, employment and income, housing, parental background, child health and development, support networks, stigma and social perceptions, as well as identifying services available to young parents and their level of access. The review also explored issues and needs relating to specific groups of young parents, such as care leavers and young parents with learning difficulties. The review highlighted the complex issues that affect young parents and their children and the need to reawaken a policy focus on young parenthood that has been neglected over recent years, reflected by a lack of policy, academic research and service provision. The review highlighted the need for supportive policies to expand their remit beyond the teenage years, recognising the disadvantages faced by young parents in their early 20’s, which left unsupported, will have negative consequences for their children. The review showed that whilst the prevention of unplanned pregnancy is important, there is a need for a separate policy focus on support in order to address the issue of intergenerational disadvantage faced by young mothers and their children. Action for Children also commissioned Dr Luke Martinelli at the IPR to conduct some analysis of the Next Steps Survey (formerly the Longitudinal Study of Young People, LSYPE) to further understand the issues faced by young parents.

The literature review and Next Steps survey analysis were combined with focus group material gathered by Action for Children researchers for the final report.

Research team

  • Marsha Wood, Research Assistant, Institute for Policy Research (IPR)
  • Dr Luke Martinelli, Research Associate, IPR
  • Professor Sue Maguire, Honorary Professor, IPR
  • Dr Rita Griffiths, Research Lead, IPR


Action for Children