The Youngest Parents


About the Project
Since 1986, I have been working as a doctor and a photographer in the Piedmont of North Carolina. In the clinic I work as a general pediatrician, I help care for teenagers, not a few of whom become parents at an early age. In working with these teens and their children as patients, I’ve heard many informative stories and witnessed the telling gestures and phrases and silences that constitute important clues to a patient’s condition. But the atmosphere of the clinic, like that of most hospitals and doctors’ offices, can limit how much a teenager (or a patient of any age) is inclined to reveal. And so, in an effort to better understand teenage pregnancy, I decided to visit teenage parents in their own homes and neighborhoods and schools.

One or two afternoons a week, I left behind my familiar professional world. With the help of nursing and social work colleagues, I made contact with twenty-five adolescents in the city of Durham and surrounding rural counties. In a sense, I became a doctor making a kind of home visit, though my diagnostic tools were exchanged for the camera. Along the way, the tables were turned. I was out of my element, on others’ turf, on others’ terms. I soon began to fill in gaps in my education… To read the entire essay, as reproduced from the book “The Youngest Parents: Teenage Pregnancy as It Shapes Lives,” written by Robert Coles; photographs by Jocelyn Lee and John Moses, download this file. To view more photographs, visit:

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