It can be easy to jump to the conclusion that young parents are not as good at parenting as older parents, but a recently released paper by Kerry Hill, Senior Research & Development Officer with Barnardos' Practice Development Centre shows that there are some real advantages to being a younger parent.
The median age of first time mothers in Australia in 2010 was 28.9 years, so young parents are defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as being between the ages of 15 and 24 years old.
In her paper entitled Young Parents Ms Hill says younger parents often report that they have a close relationship with their children and they understand their way of thinking and reasoning better.
"They have the energy to engage in play, which has been found to strengthen the bond between parent and child," she said.
"Young parents also have an increased likelihood that they will be around to see their children and grandchildren mature into adults.
"Some young parents also indicate that, having a child motivated them to stop risky or antisocial behaviours, and gave their lives a newfound sense of purpose, maturity and responsibility."
Another real positive for young parents is the increased likelihood that there would be several generations within the extended family to offer support and guidance.
But while young parents may be in their biological prime with lots of energy and understanding, they have mostly likely not had the chance to establish a career and are therefore are on a much lower income then the average parent, with little or no savings.
They might also feel like they are not emotionally ready to 'give up' their old lives or put them on hold to care for a child.
"Having a child at an early age can mean that suddenly there is little in common with peers and friendships are lost. Young mothers are also statistically less likely to be married or living with a de-facto partner. Studies show that if the father of the child is involved at time of birth the relationship only has a small chance of lasting into the future," she said.
"Struggling to financially provide for a child can mean that nutrition for a child may be compromised, housing may be unstable or substandard, opportunities for enrichment activities such as swimming lessons and access to specialised education or healthcare may be reduced. An implication of not having financial security is the stress it can cause the parent."
Barnardos believes young people need holistic support programs, especially those with minimal family or community support.
But it is concerning that research indicates young parents may be less likely to access help programs and that young fathers have been largely left out of research.
Pregnancy at any age has its advantages and disadvantages. Age itself does not make a person a good or bad parent.
"With adequate access to formal and informal support, people of any age or in any situation can find inspiration in their children and learn to be great parents. A young person who values the welfare of their child should be seen for the parent that they are rather than judged on the age at which they become pregnant."
This report highlights the importance of guided practice case management systems such as MyStory, in prompting case workers to have the discussions that matter most in supporting young parents.
Read the full report.
If you are a young parent and would like to find out about Barnardos run programs in your local area please call us on 1800 066 757.