Examining the characteristics of maternity group home residents is critical to understanding program outcomes. A number of studies have described the populations served by various maternity group homes or networks of homes. Here we synthesize the findings of these studies in order to describe some aspects of the characteristics of program residents.
Backgrounds. Not unexpectedly, maternity group home residents tend to be a disadvantaged population. Many have histories of welfare receipt, domestic violence, child abuse, educational interruptions, and housing instability. Studies have reported family reliance on welfare among as many as 76 percent of residents of some maternity group homes, and many teen mothers are themselves children of teen mothers (Saunders 1990). Different studies found that between 13 and 50 percent of residents reported being abused by their boyfriends, and an early study of Massachusetts' Teen Living Program network found that 43 percent of residents had been Department of Social Services cases when they were children (Reich 1996; and Saunders 1990). Between 37 percent and about 67 percent of residents had dropped out of school, and many maternity group home residents had been homeless or precariously housed before coming to the homes (Reich 1996; Saunders 1990; Saint Elizabeth's Regional Maternity Center 2004; and Fischer 2000).
Social characteristics. Despite their disadvantaged backgrounds, residents of the homes show considerable resiliency. Some studies indicate that maternity group home residents have adequate social support and related characteristics. An early study of Massachusetts' Teen Living Program network found that most residents had adequate parenting and life management skills (Reich 1996). A study of two maternity group homes in California found the clinical and psychological characteristics of residents to be similar to those of different populations of pregnant teens in other studies, although residents had lower self-esteem than older mothers in other studies, particularly on the school-academic subscale (Koniak 1989). Residents of those homes reported support networks that included 9.5 people, on average, mostly family and friends, including other maternity group home residents. Although the majority of respondents had not intended to become pregnant, they were still able to develop positive attachments to their unborn fetus.