Contact:
Kim Allen
allenki@missouri.edu
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Adolescent Mother
Journaling Program

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:

  • “It has helped me realize and work through some feelings.”
  • “It has helped me to find out more about myself and my creativeness.”

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:

  •  “Definitely a positive impact on my parenting. I am more calm & patient after this time of looking    inside.”

  • “It has made me think more about the kind of mother I want to be.”

  • “It has made me realize how good of a mother I am and in what areas to work on…”

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 

  1. preparing for introspection through mediation and guided imagery, 

  2. writing a dialogue between yourself and the person(s) with whom you are angry or frustrated 

  3. writing letters to the person(s) with whom you are angry or frustrated that are never mailed, 

  4. drawing and scribbling as a release of tension, 

  5. drawing oneself and others in cartoon form and then writing a cartoon-like dialogue, 

  6. rewriting previous life experiences in a way that expresses what you wish had happened, and 

  7. periodically reviewing previous journal entries to gain new insight into how situations were handled in the past and how they can be handled in the present. 

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.). 

 

 

For additional information, contact:

Kim Allen
Director
Center on Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy and Parenting
State Specialist, University of MO Extension
1205 University Pl., Suite 1100
Columbia, MO 65211
Phone: 573-884-0644
Fax: 573.884.4878

allenki@missouri.edu
 

 

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last updated 11/10/08