In 2013 there were 274,641 babies born to females ages 15-19 years in the United States. This is down from 2009, when a total of 409,840 infants were born to females in that age group and is reflective of a general downward trend in adolescent pregnancy since 1991. The teen birth rate has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years as a result of the increased availability of contraceptive products, sex education instruction in schools and an increased percentage of adolescents delaying sexual intercourse.3,4 However, the U.S. teen birth rate is higher than many other developed countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.5

Nearly 89% of these births occurred outside of marriage. Approximately 50% of adolescent pregnancies occur within the first six months of initial sexual intercourse.6 As many as 83% of pregnant adolescents, who give birth, are from low income families.7 Once an adolescent has given birth to one child, she is at increased risk for giving birth to another child during adolescence. There is an increased risk of the adolescent mother becoming pregnant again within two years (40% to 60%). Adolescents enrolled in school with positive attitudes toward school and performing well are less likely to have or father a baby. Adolescents with mothers who gave birth as teens and/or have only high school degrees are more likely to have a baby before age 20 than those whose mothers were older at their birth or who attended some college. Pregnant adolescents are likely to live in continuing poverty and constant financial stress. The pregnancy is likely to interrupt school, resulting with non-attainment of high school graduation and limited job opportunities.8

There are numerous individual, family and social risk factors linked to adolescent pregnancies.

  • Individual risk factors:
    • Drug and alcohol use.
    • Lack of knowledge about sex or contraception.
    • Lack of goals for the future.
    • Low self-esteem.
    • Poor school performance.
    • Having sex at a young age.
    • Being the victim of sexual abuse.
    • Ambivalence about having a child.

  • Family risk factors:
    • Poor parental supervision.
    • Limited communication between parents and the adolescent.
    • Negative family interactions.
    • Single parent families.
    • Significant unresolved conflict between family members.
    • Family history of teenage pregnancies.

  • Social risk factors:
    • Pressure from peers to have sex.
    • Dating at an early age.
    • Dating older males.
    • Friends who are sexually active.
    • Poor peer relationships.9,10