From distress to flourishing: towards a strengths-based approach for young mothers

Melissa Johnstone*, Kate Mulherin

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: The current study aims to better understand the predictors of flourishing, as well as the predictors of distress, among first-time Australian mothers in their teens and early 20s in the first year postpartum. Background: Past research has linked early motherhood with poor outcomes for mother and baby. However, other research has demonstrated that disadvantage often precedes early motherhood, rather than results from it, and there has been a consistent body of qualitative research highlighting positive outcomes for young mothers. In this paper, we investigate who is doing well amongst a sample of young mothers. Methods: Through quantitative analysis of survey data of 86 women aged 16–24 years who had transitioned to motherhood in the past 12 months, we investigate the predictors of flourishing, along with postnatal distress. Results: Our findings suggest that this sample of women was doing well, with relatively high scores on flourishing and low scores on distress. As expected, the two constructs were negatively correlated. Conclusion: Whilst self-esteem was a consistent predictor of both distress and flourishing, and acted as a mediating factor, this research also showed that there are unique and independent predictors for distress and flourishing, which can be used to inform tailored programs for young mothers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)166-183
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
    Issue number2
    Early online date4 Jul 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • early motherhood
    • postnatal depression
    • flourishing
    • teen mothers


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