What to expect when girls are expecting: Psychosocial support challenges and opportunities in the context and aftermath of teenage pregnancy in Kenya

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Background: An understanding of the psychosocial support challenges and opportunities in the context of teenage pregnancy is important for developing appropriate interventions for pregnant and parenting girls. This qualitative study was conducted in Homa Bay County, Kenya, to examine the experience of teenage pregnancy and the resultant psychosocial support needs from the perspectives of both pregnant/parenting girls and their own parents, who are typically expected to provide various forms of support. Methods: The study used a descriptive case study design, drawing on counseling case notes documented by psychologists who held counseling sessions with 20 pregnant or parenting girls and 6 of their parents as part of a psychosocial support intervention. The counseling case notes formed a qualitative data set, which was analyzed thematically. Results: Emerging master themes were related to pregnant and parenting girls’ experience of sexual violence and adverse childbirth outcomes; psychological trauma confronted by girls and their parents alike; parental need for support in communicating with pregnant/parenting girls about sex and sexuality; and the availability of family support as a resource for teenage mothers. Conclusion: Pregnant and parenting teenage girls require a range of psychosocial support responses that recognize the realities of sexual violence and other challenges in the lives of the girls themselves, as well as in the lives of their parents and caregivers. While parents and other caregivers can serve as an important resource for supporting affected girls, they often need assistance as well, in order to support pregnant/parenting girls effectively. These realities need to be taken into account to maximize the effectiveness of health and development programs for pregnant and parenting girls. Furthermore, emerging themes from actual counseling sessions with affected girls and parents can provide important insights into the potential psychosocial support needs of the broader population of pregnant and parenting girls.






Expanding Access to Secondary School Education for Teenage Mothers in Kenya; GIRL Center