Potential Benefits of Journaling for Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents
Journaling can prove particularly beneficial to pregnant adolescents, who may have negative feeling about their bodies and selves (Stenberg & Blinn, 1993). In addition, a journal can serve as a place to communicate apprehension or fear about future events such as labor, delivery, or parenting. Writing down these concerns can help the adolescent sort through her thoughts and make them more concrete, which may in turn be less frightening than having general anxiety or a mental list of fears that has no definite end.
Journaling can play a positive role in the lives of pregnant adolescents who have experienced physical or sexual abuse. Several studies have identified significant numbers of adolescent girls as experiencing maltreatment before or during pregnancy (e.g., Parker, McFarlane, & Soeken, 1994; Parker, McFarlane, Soeken, Torres, & Campbell, 1993; Rickert, Weimann, & Berenson, 1997). Although journaling has not yet been studied as a factor in coping with maltreatment, certain benefits may be realized. For example, a maltreated adolescent who works through her feelings in a journal may sooner understand that she needs to take action in order through her feelings in a journal may sooner understand that she needs to take action in order to protect herself or that her abuse was not her fault.
Adolescent mothers who attended an initial version of the AMJP expressed their own thoughts about the benefits of journaling. In a post-workshop survey, participants wrote:
Impact on parenting
Although journaling has not yet been studied formally as a way to improve parenting, preliminary findings indicate that skills presented in the AMJP may help participants deal with the challenges of being parents. In response to the question, “How has journaling affected you as a mother or soon-to-be-mother?” workshop participants wrote:
The children of adolescent mothers have been identified as being at higher risk for maltreatment or neglect(e.g., Connelly & Stratus, 1992; Overpeck, Brenner, Trumble, Trifiletti, & Berendes, 1998). Potential topics for future research include journaling as a way to improve parenting and decrease the likelihood of child abuse and/or neglect by teaching specific strategies to deal with anger.
In addition, adolescents who participate in the AMJP will have the opportunity to become skillful in journaling and use this skill as an alternative to physical violence when they are angry, stressed, or feeling powerless. For example, some of the skills that are taught in the AMJP include
All of these can serve as strategies for the healthy release of negative feelings about situations in the lives of adolescent mothers over which they may have little immediate control (poverty, racism, out-of-home placement, victimization, forced separation from their children, detention/incarceration/probation, etc.).
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last updated 11/10/08