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Preventing Teen Pregnancy

The United States has the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy and births in the western industrialized world. Adolescent pregnancy costs the United States at least $7 billion annually.

Thirty-four percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 -- about 820,000 a year. Eight in ten of these adolescent pregnancies are unintended and 79 percent are to unmarried adolescents.

The adolescent birth rate has declined slowly but steadily from 1991 to 2002 with an overall decline of 30 percent for those aged 15 to 19. These recent declines reverse the 23-percent rise in the adolescent birth rate from 1986 to 1991. The largest decline since 1991 by race was for black women. The birth rate for black adolescents aged 15 to 19 fell 42 percent between 1991 to 2002. Hispanic adolescent birth rates declined 20 percent between 1991 and 2002. The rates of both Hispanics and blacks, however, remain higher than for other groups. Hispanic adolescents now have the highest adolescent birth rates. Most adolescents giving birth before 1980 were married whereas most adolescents giving birth today are unmarried.

The younger an adolescent girl is when she has sex for the first time, the more likely she is to have had unwanted or non-voluntary sex. Close to four in ten girls who had first intercourse at 13 or 14 report it was either non-voluntary or unwanted.

Adolescent Pregnancy Consequences –

Adolescent mothers are less likely to complete high school (only one-third receive a high school diploma) and only 1.5% have a college degree by age 30. Adolescent mothers are more likely to end up on welfare (nearly 80 percent of unmarried adolescent mothers end up on welfare).

The kids of adolescent mothers have lower birth weights, are more likely to perform poorly in school, and are at greater risk of abuse and neglect.

The sons of adolescent mothers are 13 percent more likely to end up in prison while adolescent daughters are 22 percent more likely to become adolescent mothers themselves.

Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention—

The primary reason that adolescent girls who have never had intercourse give for abstaining from sex is that having sex would be against their religious or moral values. Other reasons cited include desire to avoid pregnancy, fear of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and not having met the appropriate partner. Three of four girls and over half of boys report that girls who have sex do so because their boyfriends want them to.

Adolescents who have strong emotional attachments to their moms and dads are much less likely to become sexually active at an early age and less likely to have a adolescent pregnancy.

Most people say adolescents should remain abstinent but should have access to contraception. Ninety-four percent of adults in the United States-and 91 percent of adolescents-think it important that school-aged kids and adolescents be given a strong message from society that they should abstain from sex until they are out of high school. Seventy-eight percent of adults also think that sexually active adolescents should have access to contraception to prevent adolescent pregnancy.

Contraceptive use among sexually active adolescents has increased but remains inconsistent. Three-quarters of adolescents use some method of contraception (usually a condom) the first time they have sex. A sexually active adolescent who does not use contraception has a 90 percent chance of adolescent pregnancy within one year.

Moms and dads rate high among many adolescents as trustworthy and preferred information sources on birth control. One in two adolescents say they "trust" their moms and dads most for reliable and complete information about birth control, only 12 percent say a friend.

Adolescents who have been raised by both moms and dads (biological or adoptive) from birth, have lower probabilities of having sex than youths who grew up in any other family situation. At age 16, 22 percent of girls from intact families and 44 percent of other girls have had sex at least once. Similarly, adolescents from intact, two-parent families are less likely to give birth in their adolescents than girls from other family backgrounds.

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