The Consequences of Teen Abuse

Teen pregnancy in abused girls twice as likely than in nonabused girls

(RxWiki News) The US has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates among developed nations. Understanding the risk factors for teen pregnancy might lead to effective prevention.

A recent study looked at the possible relationship between teen pregnancy and a history of abuse.

Researchers found that girls who had been abused as teenagers were twice as likely to become pregnant as teens, especially if they had been neglected or sexually abused.

"Report suspected child abuse or neglect."

The study, led by Jennie G. Noll, PhD, of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio, investigated whether being abused increased the risk of teenage girls' becoming pregnant.

The researchers tracked 435 girls, aged 14 to 17, through their 19th birthdays. None of the girls had been pregnant when the study began, but 266 of the girls had been referred to Child Protective Services within the previous year for being abused.

Within the group of girls who had experienced abuse, 37 percent had been physically abused, 43 percent had been sexually abused, and 20 percent had been physically neglected.

The other 169 girls in the study had never had contact with Child Protective Services (CPS) and were matched to the abused girls in terms of race/ethnicity, family income (within $10,000), age and whether they lived in a 1-parent or 2-parent home.

At the start of the study, 239 non-abused girls were originally included to match to the abused one, but 35 of them were found to have had contact with CPS earlier in their lives, and 68 were referred to CPS during the five-year study.

During the course of the study, 70 of the girls gave birth: 54 girls in the abused group and 16 girls in the non-abused group.

The researchers analyzed these results while taking into account the teens' responses to a survey involving their attitudes toward sex and their voluntary sexual activity (excluding any abuse).

The analysis revealed that girls who had been abused were just over twice as likely to become pregnant during adolescence, "over and above demographic risk factors and high sexual activity and low contraceptive use."

Girls who had been sexually abused were almost three times more likely to become pregnant (2.7 times more likely, to be precise). Girls who had been neglected were just over three times more likely to become pregnant.

The researchers estimated that over 350,000 girls under age 18 are abused or neglected in the US each year.

"Thus, developing effective strategies to reduce the risk of teen childbirth within this population will likely affect the overall teen birth rate in the United States," the researchers wrote.

The study was published March 25 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 22, 2013