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Perceived Positive Consequences of Teen Childbearing May Affect Sexual Risk Behaviors

April 14, 2000

A study in the April issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health examines the perceived positive consequences of teenage childbearing among female adolescents.

Researchers surveyed 584 female students attending three urban high schools in Los Angeles, CA. The mean age of respondents was 15.8 years and the majority (72%) of the respondents were Hispanic/Latina. Respondents completed a survey assessing attitudes and risk behaviors relevant to teenage pregnancy as well as a variety of other variables.

For this study, researchers developed the Perceived Consequences of Teenage Childbearing (PCTP) scale. Respondents were told to imagine what would happen if they had a baby while still a teenager in high school. They were given 11 possible outcomes and were asked to rate each one on a 4-point scale ranging from 1 "definitely not" to 4 "yes, definitely."

Possible outcomes included; "I would never be lonely," "My boyfriend would be more committed to me," "I would feel more like an adult," "My family would let me continue living at home," and "I'd still be able to finish my high school education."

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Each respondent's final score on the PCTC scale represents the average of her 11 responses. Scores on the PCTC scale ranged from 1.00 to 3.91, the mean score was 2.59.

Multiple regression and logistical regression analyses were used to examine the association between the PCTC score and demographic variables, education variables, parental characteristics, psychosocial variables, attitudes, and sexual behaviors.


Results

  • Higher scores on the PCTC scale were found among girls who were Latina, were non-U.S. natives, had low levels of expected educational attainment, had low parental monitoring, had good communication with parents, and wished to have many children.

  • Higher PCTC scores were associated with increased odds of engaging in sexual intercourse and unprotected sexual intercourse.

  • Among the girls who reported ever having had sexual intercourse (26%), those with higher PCTC scores were at increased risk of reporting that they had ever had sexual intercourse without using contraception and that they had not used contraception at last intercourse.

  • Girls with higher PCTC scores were more likely to state that if they found out today that they were pregnant, they would keep the baby.

The authors conclude that girls who expect to attend college may be more motivated to avoid teenage childbearing because they do not want to jeopardize their college education. On the other hand girls who do not aspire to attend college or have successful careers may have few reasons to delay motherhood. Childbearing may be a way for these girls to achieve status or to obtain a goal or purpose in life.

PCTC scores were also higher among Latinas than among White or Asian-American girls. The authors suggest that some aspect of the Latino culture may encourage adolescent girls to become mothers at an early age. They note that because the Latino culture places high importance on family, a Latina adolescent may expect her family to provide assistance and support if she becomes pregnant.

The findings suggest that adolescent girls who expect more positive consequences from teenage childbearing may be more likely to engage in sexual risk behaviors that put them at risk for pregnancy, as well as HIV and other STDs. The authors caution, however, that the data does not indicate that perceived consequences of teenage childbearing cause adolescents to have unprotected sexual intercourse. Despite this, the authors feel that the PCTC scale may be useful in identifying teenage girls at increased risk for early pregnancy.

The authors conclude that even if pregnancy prevention programs teach adolescents about contraceptive methods they will not be motivated to use such methods if they either want to become pregnant or would not mind becoming pregnant. They suggest that pregnancy prevention programs may be more effective if they address adolescents' unrealistic positive illusions about teenage childbearing.

For more information:

J. B. Unger, et al., "Perceived Consequences of Teenage Childbearing Among Adolescent Girls in An Urban Sample," Journal of Adolescent Health, April 2000, vol. 26, no. 3; pp. 205-12.


May Is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

In May 2000, The National Campaign to Prevention Teen Pregnancy, along with many groups all over the country, will observe National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month by sponsoring events and awareness campaigns. Activities will focus on giving teens a voice in all aspects of pregnancy prevention efforts including planning programs, working with the press, advocating with elected officials, and creating public awareness campaigns.

The Campaign has prepared a fact sheet with suggestions for observing this national event. They include creating print broadcast public service announcements, developing a training for teens on advocacy, organizing forums, launching new youth involvement efforts, and involving teens in the community. Copies of this fact sheet are available on their Web site free of charge.

For more information and to find out what your state has planned, contact:

The National Campaign to Prevention Teen Pregnancy
1776 Massachusetts Avenue., N.W., Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: 202/478-8500
Fax: 202/478-8588
Web site: http://www.teenpregnancy.org


Resources

Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn is a new resource produced by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). This policy guide was developed to help schools implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Division of Adolescent and School Health's guidelines for addressing physical inactivity, poor dietary patterns, and tobacco use.

NASBE's policy guide provides an introduction to the policymaking process and an overall policy framework for school health programs. In addition, it contains sample policies and excerpts of actual state and local policies in an effort to show multiple ways to address the same objective. Each section ends with a list of additional resources. Copies cost $22 plus shipping and handling.

For more information:

NASBE 277 South Washington Street, Suite 100
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703/684-4000
Fax:703/836-2313
Web site: http://www.nasbe.org
E-mail: boards@nasbe.org



  
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This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.
 
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