Teen parents evidence brief

30 Aug 2019


The purpose of this evidence brief is to provide up-to-date evidence from New Zealand and international literature about effective support for teenage parents, their children and family or whanau, as well as protective factors and risks of poor outcomes faced by teenage parents and their children.

This brief also includes information support services and interventions currently in place in New Zealand, indicators of their effectiveness, and outcomes (both short- and long-term) for teenage parents and children engaged with those services.

Section One of the brief provides contextual information about teen pregnancy and parenting in Aotearoa New Zealand. Section Two reports the findings from a search for peer-reviewed and grey literature.


The brief includes two sections. Section One provides contextual information about teen pregnancy and parenting in Aotearoa New Zealand. Most of the contextual information was drawn from resources provided by Oranga Tamariki, supplemented by a small number of supporting texts. These publications provide data that help to form a picture of the current state of teenage pregnancy and parenthood in Aotearoa New Zealand. A total of 15 resources was used to develop Section One of the evidence brief.

Section Two reports the findings from a search for peer-reviewed and grey literature conducted using academic databases and Google Scholar. Because of the large number of articles and reports focusing on support interventions, protective factors, and risk factors for teenage parents, systematic and narrative reviews took priority. For articles and reports that explored support interventions in the New Zealand context, individual studies or reports (e.g., evaluations and reviews of teenage parent services and interventions) were also included. It should be noted that much of the literature and documents sourced from New Zealand were in the grey literature category, and no literature was able to be sourced on teenage parenting for Pacific peoples. In total, 41 sources were included in Section Two of the evidence brief.

Key Results

Teen birth rates in New Zealand are declining but remain high compared to other countries. The teen birth rate is particularly high amongst Maori and Pacific teens compared to all other ethnicities.

The international literature shows that while there are many examples of interventions with teenage mothers – psychosocial, educational, and vocational – not all are effective. International and New Zealand-based sources find that supportive interventions for teenage parents should be early, comprehensive, wrap-around and strengths-based.

Recent research also suggests that targeting potential participants for teenage parent interventions can create unintended outcomes such as perceptions of stereotyping and disengagement from teenagers. Targeting in this way, if done, should be carried out in an inclusive, participatory and sensitive manner.

Gaps in the existing service provision were also identified in the literature. Given that the majority of support programmes are centred around teenage mothers, service providers could consider the ways in which they support teenage fathers, particularly where teenage fathers have multiple needs.

Many reviews of the literature also show that teenage parents can face many challenges and risks, for themselves and their children. Recent research shows clear links between being a teenage mother and living in poor socio-economic circumstances. Social support is an incredibly important protective factor for teenage parents, and they can and do show other indications of individual resilience within challenging circumstances.

Page last modified: 10 Nov 2023