Maternity Group Homes Classification and Literature Review. Research Related to Maternity Group Homes

03/08/2004

Given the considerable interest in maternity group homes and the roles they can play in assisting pregnant and parenting teens transition to independence, it is important to document and synthesize what is known about these homes, as well as to identify gaps in the existing research. A number of studies of maternity group homes have been conducted in recent years; however, little is known about how effective they are in achieving their goals. Most studies of maternity group homes have simply examined the characteristics of their programs and, sometimes, the characteristics of their residents. There have been very few studies on the implementation and operation of maternity group homes and no rigorous evaluations of these homes that can shed any light on their effectiveness.

Existing studies that have focused on maternity group homes can be categorized into four groups:

  1. Studies that describe the characteristics of maternity group homes but do not report any data on program outcomes.
  2. Studies that present some data on outcomes, either based on data collected or on anecdotal evidence, but without any context or basis for comparison.
  3. Studies that compare outcomes of different groups or at different points in time. Some of these studies compare some outcomes of maternity group home residents or former residents to those of the general teenage parent population or some other similar group in a state or the nation. Others compare the outcomes of the same individuals at two points in time, either at program intake and exit or sometimes after leaving the maternity group home. A few studies mix these internal and external comparison methods.
  4. Studies that look at implementation of maternity group homes.

A summary of the studies that looked at maternity group homes is provided in Table A.1 in Appendix A. These studies provide a wealth of information on the characteristics and operations of maternity group homes, useful data on the characteristics of residents, and even some promising findings on outcomes. However, large gaps remain in the collected knowledge on the impacts of maternity group homes, for several reasons.

Although some of these studies, particularly those in the third category, may interpret their results as though they were evidence of the effectiveness of maternity group homes, none of the studies conducted on maternity group homes to date have employed methodologies rigorous enough to yield true evidence of effectiveness (as discussed further in Section D below). In particular, none had an appropriate comparison group, and most lacked comparison groups entirely.

The diversity of methodologies employed by studies of different maternity group homes makes distilling a consistent message from these studies challenging. In addition, some of these studies (especially those in the second category listed above) do not describe the research methods or data sources used, which further complicates interpretation of their findings. These issues should be kept in mind as we examine the literature on maternity group homes.

Despite the limitations and inconsistent methodologies of these studies, some tentative statements can be made regarding their findings about residents of maternity group homes. In general, maternity group home residents come from disadvantaged backgrounds but exhibit normal social supports. High proportions of maternity group home residents receive various types of assistance (from the homes and other sources) while living in the homes; however, many teens do not stay in the homes as long as they could. Some of the most promising outcomes found in studies of maternity group homes are related to child health and to father involvement with the child.

This chapter first summarizes the findings of past studies of maternity group homes, focusing primarily on those studies based on more solid methodology, on a wide variety of outcomes. The discussion centers on three questions:

  1. Who are maternity group home residents?
  2. What are residents' experiences in maternity group homes? and
  3. What are residents' experiences after they leave the homes?

We then discuss the limitations of studies conducted to date and ways a rigorous evaluation might fill some of the gaps in the research.

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