It has been widely reported that adolescent mothers are more likely to experience poor pregnancy outcome, especially low-birth-weight and/or premature infants. Recent data suggest that this poor outcome may be attributed to confounding health and social characteristics of adolescent mothers. A study of maternal health and neonatal development at Boston City Hospital provided an opportunity to assess whether adolescent mothers deliver infants with poorer outcomes at birth than nonadolescents independent of numerous social and health differences between adolescent and nonadolescent mothers. A total of 275 infants of primiparous adolescents (aged 13 to 18 years) were compared at birth with 423 infants of primiparous nonadolescents. Size at birth, length of gestation, Apgar scores, and birth trauma were examined. The only statistically significant difference between the two groups was that adolescent mothers delivered infants whose mean weight was 94 g less (P < .03) than infants of nonadolescent mothers. Multiple and logistic regression analyses demonstrated that several health and social factors, but not adolescent status, were independently associated with the measures of adverse infant outcome. A subsequent regression analysis demonstrated similarly that being a younger adolescent (16 years and younger) did not independently predict low birth weight at delivery or other measured adverse neonatal outcomes. These data support the view that health and social factors are more important to poor fetal outcome among primiparous mothers than adolescent status. Some of the health factors are amenable to clinical intervention.

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