This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Preface



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Trends in Teenage Pregnancy


The bad news is that there are far too many teenage pregnancies. The good news is that the rate of teenage pregnancy has declined rather dramatically since the early 1990s.

The teenage pregnancy rate is commonly expressed as the annual number of pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15–19. In 2006, this rate was 71.5, equal to 7.15 percent of all women in this age bracket (Kost et al., 2010). [9] Because many women in this age group either have never had sex or have not had sex in the past year, it is instructive to consider the pregnancy rate among women ages 15–19 who are sexually active. In 2006, this rate was 152.8 per 1,000, equal to 15.28 percent of all sexually active women in this age group.

As high as these rates are, and they are much higher than the rates in other Western democracies, the US teenage pregnancy rate is much lower now than it was in the early 1990s. Figure 9.5 "Pregnancy Rates for US Women Aged 15–19, 1972–2006 (Number of Pregnancies per 1,000 Women Aged 15–19)" displays this dramatic trend. Teenage pregnancy reached a peak rate of 116.9 in 1990 before falling rather steadily to its 2006 rate of 71.5, a much lower rate than existed during the early 1970s. Reflecting the decline in teenage pregnancy, teenage births, as noted earlier, also reached a record low of 39.1 births per 1,000 women ages 15–19 in 2009, as compared to its peak rate of 61.8 in 1991. Despite this dramatic decline, the US teenage birth rate remains the highest of all Western democracies. Experts attribute the decline in teenage pregnancy and birth mostly to increased contraceptive use (stemming from a combination of increased sex education in the schools and increased provision of contraceptives to teenagers) and, to a smaller extent, to reduced sexual activity among some teenagers (Kost et al., 2010). [10]

Figure 9.5 Pregnancy Rates for US Women Aged 15–19, 1972–2006 (Number of Pregnancies per 1,000 Women Aged 15–19)

http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig09_005.jpg

Source: Data from Kost, K., Henshaw, S., & Carlin, L. (2010). US teenage pregnancies, births and abortions: National and state trends and trends by race and ethnicity, 2010. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute.


Correlates of Teenage Pregnancy


We have already noted that teenagers from poor or near-poor families are at greater risk for becoming pregnant. In addition to social class, two other important correlates of teenage pregnancy are race/ethnicity and geography.

Figure 9.6 "Race/Ethnicity and Teenage Pregnancy, 2006 (Number of Pregnancies per 1,000 Women Aged 15–19)" displays the racial/ethnic differences for teenage pregnancy, which are rather large. The pregnancy rates for black and Hispanic teenagers are almost three times greater than the rates for non-Hispanic whites.



Figure 9.6 Race/Ethnicity and Teenage Pregnancy, 2006 (Number of Pregnancies per 1,000 Women Aged 15–19)

http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig09_006.jpg

Source: Data from Kost, K., Henshaw, S., & Carlin, L. (2010). US teenage pregnancies, births and abortions: National and state trends and trends by race and ethnicity, 2010. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute.

Large differences also exist in teenage pregnancy rates by state and the regions of the country into which the states fall. In general, the South has a higher teenage pregnancy rate than the rest of the nation (see Figure 9.7 "Teenage Pregnancy Rates in the United States, 2005 (Number of Pregnancies per 1,000 Women Aged 15–19)"), although there are individual differences by state. The South’s generally higher rate stems largely from its higher poverty rate and racial/ethnic composition. As the opening news story on Texas indicates, sex education programs emphasizing safe sex are also less common in Southern states than in many other states. The same difference holds for the provision of contraceptives by Planned Parenthood and other agencies and organizations. The lack of these two important pregnancy-prevention measures probably also contributes to the South’s higher teenage pregnancy rate.



Figure 9.7 Teenage Pregnancy Rates in the United States, 2005 (Number of Pregnancies per 1,000 Women Aged 15–19)

http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig09_007.jpg

Source: Data from Kost, K., Henshaw, S., & Carlin, L. (2010). US teenage pregnancies, births and abortions: National and state trends and trends by race and ethnicity, 2010. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute.


Sexually Transmitted Diseases


In addition to pregnancy and birth, another problem associated with teenage sexual activity is the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This is a problem during the teenage years, but it is even more of a problem during young adulthood, when sexual activity is greater than during adolescence (Wildsmith, Schelar, Peterson, & Manlove, 2010). [11] The STD rate in the United States is higher than in most other Western democracies. Almost 19 million new cases of STDs are diagnosed annually, and more than 65 million Americans have an incurable STD such as herpes. Although teens and young adults ages 15–24 compose only one-fourth of sexually active people, they account for one-half of all new STDs. Despite this fact, most young adults who test positive for an STD did not believe they were at risk for getting an STD (Wildsmith et al., 2010). [12]

In any one year, 15 percent of young adults ages 18 and 26 have an STD. This figure masks a significant gender difference: 20 percent of young women have had an STD in the past year, compared to 10 percent of young men. It also masks important racial/ethnic differences: 34 percent of young African Americans have had an STD in the past year, compared to 10 percent of Asians, 15 percent of Hispanics, and 10 percent of whites.

Three types of sexual behaviors increase the risk of transmitting or contracting an STD: having sex with at least three partners during the past year, having a sex partner with a known STD, and not using a condom regularly. About 17 percent of sexually active young adults have had at least three partners during the past year, and 8 percent have had a partner with a known STD. Three-fourths of unmarried sexually active young adults do not use a condom regularly. Combining all these risk factors, 39 percent have engaged in one risk factor in the past year, 14 percent have engaged in at least two risk factors, and the remainder, 48 percent, have engaged in no risk factors (Wildsmith et al., 2010). [13]


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