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The negative economic effect that teen pregnancy has on young mothers also impacts the

nations economy as a whole, according to a report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen
and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Thirty four percent of young teen mothers earn neither a college degree nor a high school
diploma, and less than two percent of teen mothers earn a degree by the time they turn 30.
Because teenage pregnancy deters increased education, it leads to significant amounts of lost
earnings, which negatively effect the economy as a whole, the study points out:
Nearly one-third of teen girls who have dropped out of high school cite early pregnancy or
parenthood as a key reason. [...] According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, it is
estimated that over the course of his or her lifetime, a single high school dropout costs the nation
approximately $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity. Put another way, if students
who dropped out of the Class of 2011 had graduated from high school, the nations
economy would likely benefit from nearly $154 billion in additional income over the course
of their lifetimes.
The countrys lost earnings from an increased number of high school and college drop-outs are
compounded by the estimated billions of dollars that teenage pregnancies cost taxpayers each
year, mainly due to increased public sector health care costs.
Despite the good news that the U.S.s nationwide teen pregnancy rate is dropping, the rates of
teenage motherhood remain highest in states that promote abstinence-only policies. Ultimately,
providing young women with insufficient and misleading information about their reproductive
health has a dramatically negative economic impact on the nations teenage mothers and on the
nation as a wTeenage pregnancy has been on the rise in Kenya for many years and the situation
is likely to get out of hand if nothing is done. A report released Last week as the world marked
The International Day of the Girl Child showed that Kenya is one of the countries with higher
levels of teenage pregnancies.
According to studies, nearly 3 in every 10 teenage girls are having babies. The age bracket is
normally between 15 to 19 and in most cases these are normally school going children either in
primary or secondary school, who as a result of the unwanted pregnancies are forced to drop out
of school.
Several factors which include peer pressure, rape, cultural practices, lack of sexual awareness
and abuse of alcohol and drugs have been attributed to teenage pregnancies but the biggest
association is with poverty. This explains why teenage pregnancies are more usual in the rural
parts of Kenya especially among poor households.
In the northern parts of Kenya for instance, early marriages are very common especially in times
of crisis, a trend that has been referred to as drought

"Drought brides" : Parents marry off their teenage daughters to older men in exchange for money
and livestock
brides. Parents marry off their teenage daughters to older men in exchange for money and
livestock. The average age at marriage for North Eastern is said to be 17.9 years compared to 24
years in Nairobi.
Mary Makokha, The Executive Director of Rural Education and Economic Enhancement
Programme, revealed to participants during the International Day of the Girl-Child in Butula that
her organization has found over 500 cases of early pregnancies and also rescued 621 girls from
early marriage in Butula and Nambale districts in Busia County since 2004.
Teenage pregnancy remains the biggest killer of teenage girls in the developing world. Young
women aged 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die from complications in pregnancy as compared to
older women. The chances of death in the first year of life for a baby born to a woman under the
age of 18 is 60 per cent greater than that of one born to woman aged 19 or older.
Considering that research has shown that early marriages are more prominent in areas where
poverty is high and low education levels, awareness campaigns as well as initiatives that could
raise the living standards of those affected could go a great way in alleviating cases of teenage
Sex education is also critical to teenagers especially because most parents shy away from
discussing sex with their children. In the traditional set up, sex is a taboo subject and any issues
related to sex remained in the confines of a married couples bedroom. It was never discussed in
public although some communities offer sex lessons to brides-to-be, albeit in seclusion.

Lack access to contraception account for 82 per cent of the 75 million unplanned pregnancies
that occur globally.
Society in general, however has changed, and sexual activity is frequently portayed through the
medias with children as young as 10 year old being exposed. The internet, being the least
controlled of the medias, is a prime vector. The confusing absence of discussion by parents and
educators, yet the seeming promotion of sexual activity on TV and the internet and indeed
advertising, could well be a factor in promoting teenage experimentation, and eventual pregnacy.
Increased levels of knowledge about modern methods of contraception as well as making them
available and affordable, is also essential. Its believed that women who lack access to
contraception account for 82 per cent of the 75 million unplanned pregnancies that occur
However, if teenage pregnancy is to be controlled and reduced we must realize that the solution
lies in a shared responsibility that incorporates the community at large, the government and other
stake holders and the teenagers themselves.
The National Gender and Equality Commission has called for public submissions on an inquiry
into child pregnancy. This could not have come at a better time. The rate of teenage pregnancies
in Kenya has reached critical levels. Nyanza and Coast have a teenage pregnancy prevalence of
27 per cent and 26 per cent respectively. The trend is not different in other parts of the country.
The media is replete with stories of teenage mothers that there's a danger in ignoring these
reports as routine.
Many girls have died as their anatomy is not ready for the demands of childbearing. Many others
have dropped out of school, procured unsafe abortions, endured public ridicule and face an
unstable economic future. So who's to blame?
Religious, social and cultural factors have contributed to this dilemma and as a society, it's time
we had a national dialogue. Not just on political leadership, but on the health status of our young
girls as well.

Sex has continuously been glorified in the mainstream and new media with adverts, stories and
movies sending the message that having sex at an early age is cool. This has been compounded
by absentee parents in the quest for better employment and economically secure future.
Retrogressive cultural practices have contributed heavily to this dilemma. Take forced and early
marriages for example. Despite local laws and international instruments discouraging it, recent
surveys paint a grim a picture. According to Plan International survey released last week, one out
of four teenagers is married off before the age of 18 with North Eastern being the most notorious.
Poverty is also a major contributor to the high prevalence of teenage pregnancies. Innocent girls
are lured by older men who buy them flashy gifts with promises of a 'happy' life.
Young girls have also been enticed by boda boda rides and good grades. In Nyanza for example,
they have been seduced by mandazis, loose change and roadside video shows. It goes without
saying that the men disappear at the first mention of pregnancy.
As a society we have failed to protect young girls from sex predators. In Busia and Funyula
counties for example, there has been an upsurge of HIV positive men who prey on innocent girls
in the misguided belief that sex with the girls will cure them. The punishments meted on such
men are a joke. How do you tell sex offenders to cut grass?
There is limited knowledge on reproduction with a cross check of teenage mothers saying they
were not aware of the risks they exposed themselves to by engaging in sexual activities. Parents
and the strait-laced clergy shy away from discussing matters sex with children. The teachers do
not go beyond shyly naming the human anatomy parts in class leaving the Kenyan youth with no
credible centre of information on their sexuality.
Article 53 of the constitution guarantees every child the right to be protected from abuse, neglect,
harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence and inhuman treatment. The Sexual Offences
Act, the adolescent reproductive health and development policy, the national guidelines on
provision of youth-friendly services and the Child Act all state the need to protect the children
for a future healthy population.
Yes its time we had a national dialogue. A national dialogue between the clergy and young
people. A dialogue between parents and their children. A dialogue between leaders and teachers
about teenage sex.
Police watching over our teenagers in a bid to tackle teen pregnancies is not the answer as it will
affect their overall development.
There's therefore need to look into the direct and indirect factors leading to teenage pregnancies.
Issues such as poverty, lack of reproductive health awareness, child rape and abuse, among
Robert Aseda is with the Network for Adolescents an

The Adverse Effects of Teen Pregnancy

You are here
Home Youth Topics Teen Pregnancy Prevention

The high social and economic costs of teen pregnancy and childbearing can have short- and
long-term negative consequences for teen parents, their children, and their community. Through
recent research, it has been recognized that pregnancy and childbirth have a significant impact on
educational outcomes of teen parents.

By age 22, only around 50 percent of teen mothers have received a high school diploma and
only 30 percent have earned a General Education Development (GED) certificate, whereas 90
percent of women who did not give birth during adolescence receive a high school diploma.1
Only about 10 percent of teen mothers complete a two- or four-year college program.2
Teen fathers have a 25 to 30 percent lower probability of graduating from high school than
teenage boys who are not fathers.3

Children who are born to teen mothers also experience a wide range of problems. For example,
they are more likely to:

have a higher risk for low birth weight and infant mortality;
have lower levels of emotional support and cognitive stimulation;
have fewer skills and be less prepared to learn when they enter kindergarten;
have behavioral problems and chronic medical conditions;
rely more heavily on publicly funded health care;
have higher rates of foster care placement;
be incarcerated at some time during adolescence;
have lower school achievement and drop out of high school;
give birth as a teen; and
be unemployed or underemployed as a young adult.4

These immediate and long-lasting effects continue for teen parents and their children even after
adjusting for the factors that increased the teens risk for pregnancye.g., growing up in
poverty, having parents with low levels of education, growing up in a single-parent family, and
having low attachment to and performance in school.5
Teen pregnancy costs U.S. taxpayers about $11 billion per year due to increased health care and
foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue

because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers.6 Some recent cost
studies estimate that the cost may be as high as $28 billion per year or an average of $5,500 for
each teen parent. The majority of this cost is associated with teens who give birth before age 18.7

Federal Resources
Teen Pregnancy: Improving the Lives of Young People and Strengthening Communities by
Reducing Teen Pregnancy (PDF, 4 pages)
This resource from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives a snapshot of the teen
pregnancy problem in the U.S., the adverse effects of teen pregnancy, as well as prevention
information, including success stories.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2011; Hoffman & Maynard, 2008
Hoffman & Maynard, 2008
Covington, Peters, Sabia, & Price, 2011; Fletcher & Wolfe, 2012
CDC, 2011c; Hoffman & Maynard, 2008
CDC, 2011b
National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2011
Hoffman & Maynard, 2008

Teenage pregnancy is pregnancy in human females under the age of 20 at the time that the
pregnancy ends. A pregnancy can take place after the start of the puberty before first menstrual
period, but usually occurs after the onset of periods. In well-nourished girls, menarche usually
takes place around the age of 12 or 13.
Pregnant teenagers face many of the same obstetrics issues as other women. There are, however,
additional medical concerns for mothers aged under 15.[2] For mothers aged 1519, risks are
associated more with socioeconomic factors than with the biological effects of age.[3] Risks of
low birth weight, premature labor, anemia, and pre-eclampsia are connected to the biological age
itself, as it was observed in teen births even after controlling for other risk factors (such as
utilization of antenatal care etc.).[4][5]
In developed countries, teenage pregnancies are often associated with social issues, including
lower educational levels, higher rates of poverty, and other poorer life outcomes in children of
teenage mothers. Teenage pregnancy in developed countries is usually outside of marriage, and
carries a social stigma in many communities and cultures.[6] By contrast, teenage parents in
developing countries are often married, and their pregnancies welcomed by family and society.
However, in these societies, early pregnancy may combine with malnutrition and poor health
care to cause medical problems.
Teenage pregnancies appear to be preventable by comprehensive sex education and access to
birth control.[7] Abstinence-only sex education does not appear to be effective.[8]

The age of the mother is determined by the easily verified date when the pregnancy ends, not by
the estimated date of conception.[9] Consequently, the statistics do not include pregnancies that
began in women aged 19 if they did not end until on or after the woman's 20th birthday.[9]
Similarly, statistics on the mother's marital status are determined by whether she is married at the
end of the pregnancy, not at the time of conception.

Several studies have examined the socioeconomic, medical, and psychological impact of
pregnancy and parenthood in teens. Life outcomes for teenage mothers and their children vary;
other factors, such as poverty or social support, may be more important than the age of the
mother at the birth. Many solutions to counteract the more negative findings have been proposed.
Teenage parents who can rely on family and community support, social services and child-care
support are more likely to continue their education and get higher paying jobs as they progress
with their education.[10]


Teen birth rates internationally, per 1000 girls aged 1519, (2008). United States and United Kingdom
have some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world.

Being a young mother in an industrialized country can affect one's education. Teen mothers are
more likely to drop out of high school.[11] However, recent studies have found that many of these
mothers had already dropped out of school before becoming pregnant, but those in school at the
time of their pregnancy were as likely to graduate as their peers.[citation needed] One study in 2001
found that women who gave birth during their teens completed secondary-level schooling 10
12% as often and pursued post-secondary education 1429% as often as women who waited until
age 30.[12] Young motherhood in an industrialized country can affect employment and social
class. Less than one third of teenage mothers receive any form of child support, vastly increasing
the likelihood of turning to the government for assistance.[13] The correlation between earlier
childbearing and failure to complete high school reduces career opportunities for many young
women.[11] One study found that, in 1988, 60% of teenage mothers were impoverished at the
time of giving birth.[14] Additional research found that nearly 50% of all adolescent mothers
sought social assistance within the first five years of their child's life.[11] A study of 100 teenaged

mothers in the United Kingdom found that only 11% received a salary, while the remaining 89%
were unemployed.[15] Most British teenage mothers live in poverty, with nearly half in the
bottom fifth of the income distribution.[16] Teenage women who are pregnant or mothers are
seven times more likely to commit suicide than other teenagers.[17] Professor John Ermisch at the
institute of social and economic research at Essex University and Dr Roger Ingham, director of
the centre of sexual health at Southampton University found that comparing teenage mothers
with other girls with similarly deprived social-economic profiles, bad school experiences and
low educational aspirations, the difference in their respective life chances was negligible.[18]
Teenage motherhood may actually make economic sense for young women with less money,
some research suggests. For instance, long-term studies by Duke University economist V. Joseph
Hotz and colleagues, published in 2005, found that by age 35, former teen moms had earned
more in income, paid more in taxes, were substantially less likely to live in poverty and collected
less in public assistance than similarly poor women who waited until their 20s to have babies.
Women who became mothers in their teens freed from child-raising duties by their late 20s
and early 30s to pursue employment while poorer women who waited to become moms were still
stuck at home watching their young children wound up paying more in taxes than they had
collected in welfare.[19] Eight years earlier, the federally commissioned report "Kids Having
Kids" also contained a similar finding, though it was buried: "Adolescent childbearers fare
slightly better than later-childbearing counterparts in terms of their overall economic
welfare."[citation needed]
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, nearly 1 in 4 teen mothers will
experience another pregnancy within two years of having their first.[20] Pregnancy and giving
birth significantly increases the chance that these mothers will become high school dropouts and
as many as half have to go on welfare. Many teen parents do not have the intellectual or
emotional maturity that is needed to provide for another life. Often, these pregnancies are hidden
for months resulting in a lack of adequate prenatal care and dangerous outcomes for the
babies.[21] Factors that determine which mothers are more likely to have a closely spaced repeat
birth include marriage and education: the likelihood decreases with the level of education of the
young woman or her parents and increases if she gets married.[22]

Early motherhood can affect the psychosocial development of the infant. The children of teen
mothers are more likely to be born prematurely with a low birth weight, predisposing them to
many other lifelong conditions.[23] Children of teen mothers are at higher risk of intellectual,
language, and socio-emotional delays.[21] Developmental disabilities and behavioral issues are
increased in children born to teen mothers.[24][25] One study suggested that adolescent mothers are
less likely to stimulate their infant through affectionate behaviors such as touch, smiling, and
verbal communication, or to be sensitive and accepting toward his or her needs.[24] Another
found that those who had more social support were less likely to show anger toward their
children or to rely upon punishment.[26]
Poor academic performance in the children of teenage mothers has also been noted, with many of
them being more likely than average to fail to graduate from secondary school, be held back a

grade level, or score lower on standardized tests.[11] Daughters born to adolescent parents are
more likely to become teen mothers themselves.[11][27] A son born to a teenage mother is three
times more likely to serve time in prison.[28]

Other family members

Teen pregnancy and motherhood can influence younger siblings. One study found that the
younger sisters of teen mothers were less likely to emphasize the importance of education and
employment and more likely to accept human sexual behavior, parenting, and marriage at
younger ages; younger brothers, too, were found to be more tolerant of non-marital and early
births, in addition to being more susceptible to high-risk behaviors.[29] If the younger sisters of
teenage parents babysit the children, they have an increased risk of getting pregnant
themselves.[30] Once an older daughter has a child, parents often become more accepting as time
goes by.[31] The probability of the younger sister having a teenage pregnancy went from one in
five to two in five if the elder sister had a baby as a teenager.[32]

Maternal and prenatal health is of particular concern among teens who are pregnant or parenting.
The worldwide incidence of premature birth and low birth weight is higher among adolescent
mothers.[3][11][33] In a rural hospital in West Bengal, teenage mothers between 15 and 19 years old
were more likely to have anemia, preterm delivery, and low birth weight than mothers between
20 and 24 years old.[34]
Research indicates that pregnant teens are less likely to receive prenatal care, often seeking it in
the third trimester, if at all.[3] The Guttmacher Institute reports that one-third of pregnant teens
receive insufficient prenatal care and that their children are more likely to have health issues in
childhood or be hospitalized than those born to older women.[35]
Young mothers who are given high-quality maternity care have significantly healthier babies
than those who do not. Many of the health-issues associated with teenage mothers appear to
result from lack of access to adequate medical care.[36]
Many pregnant teens are at risk of nutritional deficiencies from poor eating habits common in
adolescence, including attempts to lose weight through dieting, skipping meals, food faddism,
snacking, and consumption of fast food.[37]
Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy is an even more marked problem among teenagers in
developing countries.[38][39] Complications of pregnancy result in the deaths of an estimated
70,000 teen girls in developing countries each year. Young mothers and their babies are also at
greater risk of contracting HIV.[2] The World Health Organization estimates that the risk of death
following pregnancy is twice as high for women aged 1519 than for those aged 2024. The
maternal mortality rate can be up to five times higher for girls aged 1014 than for women aged
2024. Illegal abortion also holds many risks for teenage girls in areas such as sub-Saharan

Risks for medical complications are greater for girls aged under 15, as an underdeveloped pelvis
can lead to difficulties in childbirth. Obstructed labour is normally dealt with by Caesarean
section in industrialized nations; however, in developing regions where medical services might
be unavailable, it can lead to eclampsia, obstetric fistula, infant mortality, or maternal death.[2]
For mothers who are older than fifteen, age in itself is not a risk factor, and poor outcomes are
associated more with socioeconomic factors rather than with biology.[3]


In some societies, early marriage and traditional gender roles are important factors in the rate of
teenage pregnancy. For example, in some sub-Saharan African countries, early pregnancy is
often seen as a blessing because it is proof of the young woman's fertility.[40] The average
marriage age differs by country, and countries where teenage marriages are common experience
higher levels of teenage pregnancies. In the Indian subcontinent, early marriage and pregnancy is
more common in traditional rural communities than cities.[41] The lack of education on safe sex,
whether it is from parents, schools, or otherwise, is a cause of teenage pregnancy. Many
teenagers are not taught about methods of birth control and how to deal with peers who pressure
them into having sex before they are ready. Many pregnant teenagers do not have any cognition
of the central facts of sexuality.[42]
In societies where adolescent marriage is less common, such as many developed countries,
young age at first intercourse and lack of use of contraceptive methods (or their inconsistent
and/or incorrect use; the use of a method with a high failure rate is also a problem) may be
factors in teen pregnancy.[43][44] Most teenage pregnancies in the developed world appear to be
unplanned.[44][45] In an attempt to reverse the increasing numbers of teenage pregnancies,
governments in many Western countries have instituted sex education programs, the main
objective of which is to reduce such pregnancies and STDs. Countries with low levels of
teenagers giving birth accept sexual relationships among teenagers and provide comprehensive
and balanced information about sexuality.[46]

See also: Adolescent sexuality

In most countries, most men experience sexual intercourse for the first time before their 20th
birthdays.[47] Men in Western developed countries have sex for the first time sooner than in
undeveloped and culturally conservative countries such as Sub-Saharan Africa and much of
In a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study of US teenagers, 29% of teens reported feeling
pressure to have sex, 33% of sexually active teens reported "being in a relationship where they
felt things were moving too fast sexually", and 24% had "done something sexual they didnt
really want to do".[48] Several polls have indicated peer pressure as a factor in encouraging both

girls and boys to have sex.[49][50] The increased sexual activity among adolescents is manifested
in increased teenage pregnancies and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

Role of drug and alcohol use

Inhibition-reducing drugs and alcohol may possibly encourage unintended sexual activity. If so,
it is unknown if the drugs themselves directly influence teenagers to engage in riskier behavior,
or whether teenagers who engage in drug use are more likely to engage in sex. Correlation does
not imply causation. The drugs with the strongest evidence linking them to teenage pregnancy
are alcohol, cannabis, "ecstasy" and other substituted amphetamines. The drugs with the least
evidence to support a link to early pregnancy are opioids, such as heroin, morphine, and
oxycodone, of which a well-known effect is the significant reduction of libido it appears that
teenage opioid users have significantly reduced rates of conception compared to their non-using,
and alcohol, "ecstasy", cannabis, and amphetamine using peers.[43][48][51][52]

Lack of contraception
Main article: Birth control

Adolescents may lack knowledge of, or access to, conventional methods of preventing
pregnancy, as they may be too embarrassed or frightened to seek such information.[49][53]
Contraception for teenagers presents a huge challenge for the clinician. In 1998, the government
of the United Kingdom set a target to halve the under-18 pregnancy rate by 2010. The Teenage
Pregnancy Strategy (TPS) was established to achieve this. The pregnancy rate in this group,
although falling, rose slightly in 2007, to 41.7 per 1000 women. Young women often think of
contraception either as 'the pill' or condoms and have little knowledge about other methods. They
are heavily influenced by negative, second-hand stories about methods of contraception from
their friends and the media. Prejudices are extremely difficult to overcome. Over concern about
side-effects, for example weight gain and acne, often affect choice. Missing up to three pills a
month is common, and in this age group the figure is likely to be higher. Restarting after the pillfree week, having to hide pills, drug interactions and difficulty getting repeat prescriptions can
all lead to method failure.[54]
In the United States, according to the 2002 National Surveys of Family Growth, sexually active
adolescent women wishing to avoid pregnancy were less likely than older women to use
contraceptives (18% of 1519-year-olds used no contraceptives, versus 10.7% for women aged
1544).[55] More than 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended.[56] Over half of unintended
pregnancies were to women not using contraceptives,[55] most of the rest are due to inconsistent
or incorrect use.[56] 23% of sexually active young women in a 1996 Seventeen magazine poll
admitted to having had unprotected sex with a partner who did not use a condom, while 70% of
girls in a 1997 PARADE poll claimed it was embarrassing to buy birth control or request
information from a doctor.[49]
In a 2012 study, over 1,000 females were surveyed to find out factors contributing to not using
contraception. Of those surveyed, almost half had been involved in unprotected sex within the
previous three months. These women gave three main reasons for not using contraceptives:

trouble obtaining birth control (the most frequent reason), lack of intention to have sex, and the
misconception that they "could not get pregnant."[57]
In a study for The Guttmacher Institute, researchers found that from a comparative perspective,
however, teenage pregnancy rates in the United States are less nuanced than one might initially
assume. Since timing and levels of sexual activity are quite similar across [Sweden, France,
Canada, Great Britain, and the U.S.], the high U.S. rates arise primarily because of less, and
possibly less-effective, contraceptive use by sexually active teenagers.[58] Thus, the cause for
the discrepancy between rich nations can be traced largely to contraceptive-based issues.
Among teens in the UK seeking an abortion, a study found that the rate of contraceptive use was
roughly the same for teens as for older women.[59]
In other cases, contraception is used, but proves to be inadequate. Inexperienced adolescents may
use condoms incorrectly, forget to take oral contraceptives, or fail to use the contraceptives they
had previously chosen. Contraceptive failure rates are higher for teenagers, particularly poor
ones, than for older users.[51] Long-acting contraceptives such as intrauterine devices,
subcutaneous contraceptive implants, and contraceptive injections (such as Depo-Provera and
Combined injectable contraceptive), which prevent pregnancy for months or years at a time, are
more effective in women who have trouble remembering to take pills or using barrier methods
According to The Encyclopedia of Women's Health, published in 2004, there has been an
increased effort to provide contraception to adolescents via family planning services and schoolbased health, such as HIV prevention education.[60]

Age discrepancy in relationships

According to the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying organization, studies in the
US indicate that age discrepancy between the teenage girls and the men who impregnate them is
an important contributing factor. Teenage girls in relationships with older boys, and in particular
with adult men, are more likely to become pregnant than teenage girls in relationships with boys
their own age. They are also more likely to carry the baby to term rather than have an abortion. A
review of California's 1990 vital statistics found that men older than high school age fathered
77% of all births to high school-aged girls (ages 1618), and 51% of births to junior high schoolaged girls (under 16). Men over age 25 fathered twice as many children of teenage mothers than
boys under age 18, and men over age 20 fathered five times as many children of junior high
school-aged girls as did junior high school-aged boys. A 1992 Washington state study of 535
adolescent mothers found that 62% of the mothers had a history of being raped or sexually
molested by men whose ages averaged 27 years. This study found that, compared with
nonabused mothers, abused adolescent mothers initiated sex earlier, had sex with much older
partners, and engaged in riskier, more frequent, and promiscuous sex. Studies by the Population
Reference Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics found that about two-thirds of
children born to teenage girls in the United States are fathered by adult men age 20 or older.[61]

Sexual abuse

See also: Sexual abuse

Studies from South Africa have found that 1120% of pregnancies in teenagers are a direct result
of rape, while about 60% of teenage mothers had unwanted sexual experiences preceding their
pregnancy. Before age 15, a majority of first-intercourse experiences among females are reported
to be non-voluntary; the Guttmacher Institute found that 60% of girls who had sex before age 15
were coerced by males who on average were six years their senior.[citation needed] One in five
teenage fathers admitted to forcing girls to have sex with them.[62]
Multiple studies have indicated a strong link between early childhood sexual abuse and
subsequent teenage pregnancy in industrialized countries. Up to 70% of women who gave birth
in their teens were molested as young girls; by contrast, 25% of women who did not give birth as
teens were molested.[63][64][65]
In some countries, sexual intercourse between a minor and an adult is not considered consensual
under the law because a minor is believed to lack the maturity and competence to make an
informed decision to engage in fully consensual sex with an adult. In those countries, sex with a
minor is therefore considered statutory rape. In most European countries, by contrast, once an
adolescent has reached the age of consent, he or she can legally have sexual relations with adults
because it is held that in general (although certain limitations may still apply), reaching the age
of consent enables a juvenile to consent to sex with any partner who has also reached that age.
Therefore, the definition of statutory rape is limited to sex with a person under the minimum age
of consent. What constitutes statutory rape ultimately differs by jurisdiction (see age of consent).

Dating violence
See also: Dating abuse and Teen dating violence

Studies have indicated that adolescent girls are often in abusive relationships at the time of their
conceiving.[66][66][67] They have also reported that knowledge of their pregnancy has often
intensified violent and controlling behaviors on part of their boyfriends. Girls under age 18 are
twice as likely to be beaten by their child's father than women over age 18. A UK study found
that 70% of women who gave birth in their teens had experienced adolescent domestic violence.
Similar results have been found in studies in the United States. A Washington State study found
70% of teenage mothers had been beaten by their boyfriends, 51% had experienced attempts of
birth control sabotage within the last year, and 21% experienced school or work sabotage.
In a study of 379 pregnant or parenting teens and 95 teenage girls without children, 62% of girls
aged 1115 and 56% of girls aged 1619 reported experiencing domestic violence at the hands
of their partners. Moreover, 51% of the girls reported experiencing at least one instance where
their boyfriend attempted to sabotage their efforts to use birth control.[68]

Socioeconomic factors
Teenage pregnancy has been defined predominantly within the research field and among social
agencies as a social problem. Poverty is associated with increased rates of teenage pregnancy.[51]

Economically poor countries such as Niger and Bangladesh have far more teenage mothers
compared with economically rich countries such as Switzerland and Japan.[69]

A young poverty-stricken girl clutches her child. Image from ca 1884.

In the UK, around half of all pregnancies to under 18s are concentrated among the 30% most
deprived population, with only 14% occurring among the 30% least deprived.[70] For example, in
Italy, the teenage birth rate in the well-off central regions is only 3.3 per 1,000, while in the
poorer Mezzogiorno it is 10.0 per 1,000.[43] Similarly, in the United States, sociologist Mike A.
Males noted that teenage birth rates closely mapped poverty rates in California:[71]
Marin County

Poverty rate Birth rate*


Tulare County (Caucasians) 18%


Tulare County (Hispanics) 40%


* per 1000 women aged 1519

Teen pregnancy cost the United States over $9.1 billion in 2004, including $1.9 billion for health
care, $2.3 billion for child welfare, $2.1 billion for incarceration, and $2.9 billion in lower tax

There is little evidence to support the common belief that teenage mothers become pregnant to
get benefits, welfare, and council housing. Most knew little about housing or financial aid before
they got pregnant and what they thought they knew often turned out to be wrong.[45]

Childhood environment
Women exposed to abuse, domestic violence, and family strife in childhood are more likely to
become pregnant as teenagers, and the risk of becoming pregnant as a teenager increases with the
number of adverse childhood experiences.[citation needed] According to a 2004 study, one-third of
teenage pregnancies could be prevented by eliminating exposure to abuse, violence, and family
strife. The researchers note that "family dysfunction has enduring and unfavorable health
consequences for women during the adolescent years, the childbearing years, and beyond."
When the family environment does not include adverse childhood experiences, becoming
pregnant as an adolescent does not appear to raise the likelihood of long-term, negative
psychosocial consequences.[73] Studies have also found that boys raised in homes with a battered
mother, or who experienced physical violence directly, were significantly more likely to
impregnate a girl.[74]
Studies have also found that girls whose fathers left the family early in their lives had the highest
rates of early sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy. Girls whose fathers left them at a later
age had a lower rate of early sexual activity, and the lowest rates are found in girls whose fathers
were present throughout their childhood. Even when the researchers took into account other
factors that could have contributed to early sexual activity and pregnancy, such as behavioral
problems and life adversity, early father-absent girls were still about five times more likely in the
United States and three times more likely in New Zealand to become pregnant as adolescents
than were father-present girls.[75][76]
Low educational expectations have been pinpointed as a risk factor.[77] A girl is also more likely
to become a teenage parent if her mother or older sister gave birth in her teens.[27][30] A majority
of respondents in a 1988 Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies survey attributed the
occurrence of adolescent pregnancy to a breakdown of communication between parents and child
and also to inadequate parental supervision.[49]
Foster care youth are more likely than their peers to become pregnant as teenagers. The National
Casey Alumni Study, which surveyed foster care alumni from 23 communities across the United
States, found the birth rate for girls in foster care was more than double the rate of their peers
outside the foster care system. A University of Chicago study of youth transitioning out of foster
care in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin found that nearly half of the females had been pregnant by
age 19. The Utah Department of Human Services found that girls who had left the foster care
system between 1999 and 2004 had a birth rate nearly 3 times the rate for girls in the general

Media influence
A study conducted in 2006 found that adolescents who were more exposed to sexuality in the
media were also more likely to engage in sexual activity themselves.[79]

According to Time, "teens exposed to the most sexual content on TV are twice as likely as teens
watching less of this material to become pregnant before they reach age 20".[80]

Comprehensive sex education and access to birth control appear to reduce unplanned teenage
pregnancy.[7] It is unclear if a single intervention is most effective.[7]
In the United States free access to a long acting form of reversible birth control along with
education decreased the rates of teen pregnancies by around 80% and the rate of abortions by
more than 75%.[81]

The Dutch approach to preventing teenage pregnancy has often been seen as a model by other
countries. The curriculum focuses on values, attitudes, communication and negotiation skills, as
well as biological aspects of reproduction. The media has encouraged open dialogue and the
health-care system guarantees confidentiality and a non-judgmental approach.[82]

Abstinence only education

Add promoting abstinence in Ghana: No Sex Add (Anti-HIV/AIDS Signage)

Some schools provide abstinence-only sex education. Evidence does not support the
effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education.[8] It has been found to be ineffective in
decreasing HIV risk in the developed world,[83] and does not decrease rates of unplanned
pregnancy when compared to comprehensive sex education.[8] It does not decrease the sexual
activity rates of students, when compared to students who undertake comprehensive sexual
education classes.[84]

Public policy

In the U.S., one policy initiative that has been used to increase rates of contraceptive use is Title
X: Title X of the 1970 Public Health Service act provides family planning services for those who
do not qualify for Medicaid by distributing "funding to a network of public, private, and
nonprofit entities [to provide] services on a sliding scale based on income."[85] Studies indicate
that, internationally, success in reducing teen pregnancy rates is directly correlated with the kind
of access that Title X provides: What appears crucial to success is that adolescents know where
they can go to obtain information and services, can get there easily and are assured of receiving
confidential, nonjudgmental care, and that these services and contraceptive supplies are free or
cost very little.[58] In addressing high rates of unplanned teen pregnancies, scholars agree that
the problem must be confronted from both the biological and cultural contexts.
On September 30, 2010, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved $155
million in new funding for comprehensive sex education programs designed to prevent teenage
pregnancy. The money is being awarded "to states, non-profit organizations, school districts,
universities and others. These grants will support the replication of teen pregnancy prevention
programs that have been shown to be effective through rigorous research as well as the testing of
new, innovative approaches to combating teen pregnancy."[86] Of the total of $150 million, $55
million is funded by Affordable Care Act through the Personal Responsibility Education
Program, which requires states receiving funding to incorporate lessons about both abstinence
and contraception.
In the developing world, programs of reproductive health aimed at teenagers are often small
scale and not centrally coordinated, although some countries such as Sri Lanka have a systematic
policy framework for teaching about sex within schools.[41] Non-governmental agencies such as
the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International provide
contraceptive advice for young women worldwide. Laws against child marriage have reduced
but not eliminated the practice. Improved female literacy and educational prospects have led to
an increase in the age at first birth in areas such as Iran, Indonesia, and the Indian state of Kerala.

A team of researchers and educators in California have published a list of "best practices" in the
prevention of teen pregnancy, which includes, in addition to the previously mentioned concepts,
working to "instill a belief in a successful future", male involvement in the prevention process,
and designing interventions that are culturally relevant.[87]

Main article: Prevalence of teenage pregnancy

Teenage birth rate per 1,000 females aged 1519, 20002009[88]

In reporting teenage pregnancy rates, the number of pregnancies per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19
when the pregnancy ends is generally used.[89]
Worldwide, teenage pregnancy rates range from 143 per 1000 in some sub-Saharan African
countries to 2.9 per 1000 in South Korea.[43][90] In the United States, 82% of pregnancies in those
between 15 and 19 are unplanned.[91] Among OECD developed countries, the United States,
United Kingdom and New Zealand have the highest level of teenage pregnancy, while Japan and
South Korea have the lowest in 2001.[92] According to a 2001 UNICEF survey, in 10 out of 12
developed nations with available data, more than two thirds of young people have had sexual
intercourse while still in their teens. In Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, the
United Kingdom and the United States, the proportion is over 80%. In Australia, the United
Kingdom and the United States, approximately 25% of 15-year-olds and 50% of 17-year-olds
have had sex.[43] According to The Encyclopedia of Women's Health, published in 2004,
approximately 15 million girls under the age of 20 in the world have a child each year. Estimates
were that 2060% of these pregnancies in developing countries are mistimed or unwanted.[60]
Save the Children found that, annually, 13 million children are born to women aged under 20
worldwide, more than 90% in developing countries. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth
are the leading cause of mortality among women aged 1519 in such areas.[2]

Sub-Saharan Africa
The highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world is in sub-Saharan Africa, where women tend
to marry at an early age.[90] In Niger, for example, 87% of women surveyed were married and
53% had given birth to a child before the age of 18.[40]

In the Indian subcontinent, early marriage sometimes results in adolescent pregnancy,
particularly in rural regions where the rate is much higher than it is in urbanized areas. Latest
data suggests that teen pregnancy in India is high with 62 pregnant teens out of every 1,000
women.[93] India is fast approaching to be the most populous country in the world, and increasing
teenage pregnancy, an important factor for the population rise, is likely to aggravate the

The rates of early marriage and pregnancy in some Asian countries are high. In recent years, the
rates have decreased sharply in Indonesia and Malaysia,[citation needed] although it remains relatively
high in the former. However, in the industrialized Asian nations such as South Korea and
Singapore, teenage birth rates remain among the lowest in the world.[41]

The overall trend in Europe since 1970 has been a decreasing total fertility rate, an increase in
the age at which women experience their first birth, and a decrease in the number of births
among teenagers.[95] Most continental Western European countries have very low teenage birth
rates. This is varyingly attributed to good sex education and high levels of contraceptive use (in
the case of the Netherlands and Scandinavia), traditional values and social stigmatization (in the
case of Spain and Italy) or both (in the case of Switzerland).[6]

United Kingdom
Main article: Teenage pregnancy and sexual health in the United Kingdom

United States
Main article: Teenage pregnancy in the United States

The teenage birth rate in the United States is the highest in the developed world, and the teenage
abortion rate is also high.[43] In 2005 in the U.S., the majority (57%) of teen pregnancies resulted
in a live birth, 27% ended in an induced abortion, and 16% in a fetal loss.[96] The U.S. teenage
pregnancy rate was at a high in the 1950s and has decreased since then, although there has been
an increase in births out of wedlock.[97] The teenage pregnancy rate decreased significantly in the
1990s; this decline manifested across all racial groups, although teenagers of African-American
and Hispanic descent retain a higher rate, in comparison to that of European-Americans and
Asian-Americans. The Guttmacher Institute attributed about 25% of the decline to abstinence
and 75% to the effective use of contraceptives.[98] While in 2006 the U.S. teen birth rate rose for
the first time in fourteen years,[99] it reached a historic low in 2010: 34.3 births per 1,000 women
aged 1519.[1]
The latest data from the United States shows that the states with the highest teenage birthrate are
Mississippi, New Mexico and Arkansas while the states with the lowest teenage birthrate are
New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont.[100]

The Canadian teenage birth has also trended towards a steady decline for both younger (1517)
and older (1819) teens in the period between 1992 and 2002.[101] However, teen pregnancy has
been on the rise since 2013.[102]

Teenage fatherhood
In some cases, the father of the child is the husband of the teenage girl. The conception may
occur within wedlock, or the pregnancy itself may precipitate the marriage (the so-called shotgun
wedding). In countries such as India the majority of teenage births occur within marriage.[41][43]

In other countries, such as the United States and the Republic of Ireland, the majority of teenage
mothers are not married to the fathers of their children.[43][103] In the UK, half of all teenagers
with children are lone parents, 40% are cohabitating as a couple and 10% are married.[104]
Teenage parents are frequently in a romantic relationship at the time of birth, but many
adolescent fathers do not stay with the mother and this often disrupts their relationship with the
child. U.S. surveys tend to under-report the prevalence of teen fatherhood.[105] In many cases,
"teenage father" may be a misnomer. Studies by the Population Reference Bureau and the
National Center for Health Statistics found that about two-thirds of births to teenage girls in the
United States are fathered by adult men aged over 20.[106][107] The Guttmacher Institute reports
that over 40% of mothers aged 1517 had sexual partners three to five years older and almost
one in five had partners six or more years older.[108] A 1990 study of births to California teens
reported that the younger the mother, the greater the age gap with her male partner.[109] In the UK
72% of jointly registered births to women aged under 20, the father is over 20, with almost 1 in 4
being over 25.[110]

Teenage pregnancy was normal in previous centuries, and common in developed countries in the
20th century. Among Norwegian women born in the early 1950s, nearly a quarter became
teenage mothers by the early 1970s. However, the rates have steadily declined since that 20th
century peak. Among those born in Norway in the late 1970s, less than 10% became teenage
mothers, and rates have remained stable and lower since then.[111]
Hildegard of Vinzgouw, the wife of Charlemagne, was about 14 years old when she gave birth to
her first son in 772 CE. The mother of Henry VII of England was 13 years old when she gave
birth to him in 1457. Maria of Tver, the wife of Ivan the Great of Russia, gave birth to her first
son when she was about 16 years old, in 1458. Empress Teimei of Japan was 16 years old when
she gave birth to Hirohito in 1901.
Lina Medina of Peru holds the world record for youngest live birth: She was five years and seven
months old when she gave birth in 1939.

Society and culture

Some politicians condemn pregnancy in unmarried teenagers as a drain on taxpayers, if the
mothers and children receive welfare payments from the government.[112]

See also

Birth rate
List of youngest birth mothers
Nutrition and pregnancy
Pregnancy over age 50
Pregnancy school

Reproductive coercion
Sex education
Sexual abstinence
Single parent
Teen marriage

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Further reading

Armstrong, Bruce (2001). "Adolescent Pregnancy". In Alex Gitterman. Handbook of Social Work
Practice with Vulnerable and Resilient Populations (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Columbia University
Press. ISBN 0-231-11396-X.
Baker, Philip (2007). Teenage Pregnancy and Reproductive Health. RCOG. ISBN 978-1-90475238-7.
Checkland, David and James Wong (1999). Teen Pregnancy and Parenting: Social and Ethical
Issues. Toronto, Canada; Buffalo, NY: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-4215-5.
Dash, Leon (2003, 1989). When Children want Children: The Urban Crisis of Teenage Childbearing
(1st Illinois paperback ed.). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-07123-9. Check
date values in: |date= (help)
Erickson, Pamela I. (1998). Latina Adolescent Childbearing in East Los Angeles. Austin, TX:
University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-72093-9.
Kaplan, Elaine Bell (1997). Not Our Kind of Girl: Unraveling the Myths of Black Teenage
Motherhood. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-08736-4.
Harris, Irving B. (1996). Children in Jeopardy: Can We Break the Cycle of Poverty?. New Haven,
CT: Yale Child Study Center: Distributed by Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-06892-1.
Luker, Kristin (1996). Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-21702-0.
Rhode, Deborah L. (2007). "Politics and Pregnancy: Adolescent Mothers and Public Policy". In
Nancy Ehrenreich. The Reproductive Rights Reader. New York, NY: New York University Press.
ISBN 978-0-8147-2230-5.
Seitz, Victoria (1996). "Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting". In Edward Zigler, Sharon Lynn
Kagan, and Nancy Wilson Hall. Children, Families, and Government: Preparing for the TwentyFirst Century. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24219-3.

Silverstein, Helena (2007). Girls on the Stand: How Courts Fail Pregnant Minors. New York, NY:
New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-4031-6.


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