An evaluation of a groupwork intervention for teenage mothers and their families

McDonald, Lynn; Conrad, Tammy; Fairtlough, Anna; Fletcher, Joan; Green, Liz; Moore, Liz and Lepps, Betty. 2009. An evaluation of a groupwork intervention for teenage mothers and their families. CHILD & FAMILY SOCIAL WORK, 14(1), pp. 45-57. ISSN 1356-7500 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper describes the implementation of a specific, community-based, multi-family group (MFG) intervention strategy (Families and Schools Together [FAST] babies) aimed at improving the outcomes for infants of teenage mothers in 11 Canadian communities. The aims of this social work group intervention were (1) to engage the teenage mothers into a socially inclusive experience that might challenge the social disapproval they often experience, (2) to enhance the mother–infant bond, while increasing feelings of parental efficacy, and (3) to enhance the social context of the teenage mother by reducing stress, social isolation and intergenerational family conflict. Groups were co-led by teams of service users (a young mother, a grandmother of the baby of a teenage mother and a father of the baby of a teenage mother) collaborating with multi-agency professionals (health visitors and social workers). Teams that reflected the ethnic diversity of the participating family members were trained to facilitate eight weekly group meetings. They showed respect for the young women's ‘voice’, and supported her ‘choice’ to prioritize motherhood as her defining identity. The meetings comprised a range of activities, including crafts and singing, discussion of ‘conflict scenarios’ in cross-familial, cross-generational groups, infant massage delivered to babies by the young mothers, grandmother support groups, and a shared community meal. Where necessary, teams made referrals for specialist help. One hundred twenty-eight young mothers came once to 17 groups, and 90% graduated having attended a minimum of six sessions. Evaluation data from mothers and grandmothers showed positive change when comparing pre and post, based on standardized questionnaires. One-tailed, paired t-tests showed statistically significant increases in parental self-efficacy for the teenage mothers, improved parent–child bonds, reductions in stress and family conflict, and increases in social support. Given that rates of teenage pregnancy in the UK are among the highest in Europe, this paper concludes with a discussion of the feasibility and possible merits of introducing FAST babies to England.

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Additional Information:

First published online 5 December 2008 as "Can Multi-Family Groups for Young Mothers Co-Led by Service Users and Professionals reduce Stress and Social Exclusion?". The definitive version is available at


child abuse prevention; evidence-based social work; low income; multi-family groups; single mothers; social exclusion; vulnerable families

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


February 2009Published

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Date Deposited:

06 Sep 2013 07:31

Last Modified:

18 Jul 2023 15:32

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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