Cell Phones Give Researchers a Window on Young Mothers' Parenting Practices - Leads to NIH Funded Study

Predicting and preventing child neglect

From June 2000 to November 2003, researchers at the University of Notre Dame, in collaboration with the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the University of Kansas and Georgetown University, conducted two pilot studies on the use of cell phones to gather detailed information about predictors of early child neglect among adolescent and adult mothers.

Date from these studies helped secure funding for a much larger study and intervention project aimed at preventing child neglect among teenage mothers.

Key Findings: The pilot studies yielded preliminary data indicating that:

  • High-risk mothers are willing and able to use cell phones to report on their parenting behaviors.
  • Respondents found the cell phone interviews fun, interesting and non-intrusive as long as they did not occur too frequently.
  • A strong correlation between data gathered through the cell phone interviews and through standard survey instruments is evidence that the use of cell phones is feasible for collecting reliable and valid information on parenting.
  • Compared to adult mothers, teens are significantly less likely to practice essential parenting behaviors, such as protecting, comforting and mentoring, on a daily basis.
  • Teen mothers reported high levels of social support from family, but three-quarters of them wished that their babies' fathers would spend more time with their babies.

Key Results: Data from these studies helped advance, and secure funding for, a much larger study and an intervention project aimed at preventing child neglect among teenage mothers. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame and others received grants for this subsequent study totaling approximately $15 million from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).