Purpose: The purpose of the study was to examine whether access to an at-scale, group-based parenting education program (“Educación Inicial”) had differential effects on parenting behaviors and child cognitive development according to mother's age at the birth of her first child, with a focus on adolescent mothers in rural Mexico.
Methods: This was a secondary analysis of a cluster-randomized controlled trial (n = 728 households, n = 106 communities). We conducted intent-to-treat analyses and examined the interaction between treatment group and mother's age at first birth. The primary outcomes were parenting behaviors (Family Care Indicators) and children's cognitive development (McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities) at ages 3–5 years.
Results: We found that children of mothers who began childbearing in adulthood (20–30 years) scored higher on tests of cognitive development when randomized to weekly parenting support than their counterparts in the comparison group. Whereas, the children of mothers who began childbearing in adolescence (≤16 years) did not have higher scores associated with the parenting program (difference in magnitude of associations: Verbal = −8.19; 95% CI = −15.50 to −.88; p = .03; Memory = −7.22; 95% CI = −14.31 to −.14; p = .05). The higher scores among the children of mothers who began childbearing in adulthood were only significant when Educación Inical was supported by Prospera, the conditional cash transfer program.
Conclusions: Our study results suggest that the Educación Inicial parenting intervention did not adequately address the needs of women who began childbearing in adolescence. One reason may be that adolescent mothers are more socially marginalized and less able to benefit from parenting programs.