Psychological Factors Influencing the Rate of Teenage Pregnancy

Dear Writer,
We hope the research gathered below is useful in aiding you in writing about the phenomena of teenage pregnancy. Definitions and various sources illustrating what psychosocial factors, particularly, family history of pregnancy, abuse and media have on teenage pregnancy.
Thank you,
A. Ahmad, K. Gill, M. Kocheleva, and M.

Teen pregnancy has become a major issue in today's society; many which find it a dilemma. Adolescents have suddenly taken the wrong path as "children having children" seems to be the popular lifestyle of society. If a high school was to be examined, it would be no surprise several students are pregnant. The reason as to why you do not see a lot of teenage parents in high school is because chances are they cannot handle bearing a child and successfully attend school. This is a major societal problem! About half of teenage mothers drop out of high school, and more than half end up living in poverty or even below poverty line. Children born to teenage mothers are more likely to have health issues, neglect and be a victim of abuse. Most children of adolescent parents, or siblings of adolescent parents are normalized with the idea that adolescent parenting is okay and they have an increased risk of teen parenthood. There is endless psychological, social, economic factors that influence the rate of teenage pregnancy however we will focus on three main factors; family history, abuse and media. How do previous teenage pregnancies in the family affect the rest of adolescents in the family? What are the chances that previous abuse experiences resulted in psychological damage and if that made an impact on the resulting teenage pregnancy? Last but not least, in what aspects does the media affect the rate of sexual behaviour leading to teenage pregnancy? The amount of print and social media we are exposed to has exponentially increased throughout the years. We hope that the gathering of these articles brings an insight to this psychological phenomenon and clarifies some of the grey areas that society has tried to blur.


  • Teenage pregnancy: a female under the age of 20 when the pregnancy ends.
  • Emotional abuse: psychological maltreatment, when a parents or caregivers prevent the child's emotional, psychological and cognitive development. This includes ignoring, isolating and verbal abuse ect.
  • Physical abuse: physical contact trying to cause pain, injury or other sufferings.
  • Media: mass communication, including television, radio, newspaper, and the internet.
  • Extramarital: Sexual relationships outside of marriage.
  • Contraceptives: Tools or medication used in order to stop or reduce the risk of pregnancy.
  • Maltreatment: Treating a person or animal cruelly.
  • Sexual Abuse: Unwanted sexual contact and exploitation. Childhood sexual abuseis sexual contact between a child and an adult, like child pornography, molestation and rape.
  • Neglect: When an individual’s basic needs are ignored or not provided for. Childhood neglect is when a parent or guardian does not provide for a child’s basic needs. Like educational, emotional, medical or physical needs.

Family History

East, P. L., Reyes, B. T., & Horn, E. J.
 (2007). Association Between Adolescent Pregnancy and a Family History of Teenage Births. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 39(2), 108-115. doi: 10.1363/3910807

Teenage pregnancy is a widely debated topic worldwide.  The following article discusses one of the few important factors associated with an increased risk of teenage pregnancy.  The article has great credentials and includes reliable data. The studies mentioned are adolescent females whom were studied regularly from early adolescence (age 12-14) to late adolescence (ages 18-20) (East, Reyes, & Horn, 2007). The main focus of the study was to address the risk of teenage pregnancy between teenage girls who have a mother who had a teenage birth, a sister who had a teenage birth, or both, among those who have neither. Several measures had to be taken before the studies were evaluated. All equations of having both a mother and a sister who had had a teenage birth; a mother with a teenage birth, or neither, were controlled for the teenager’s age, race and ethnicity. According to East et al. (2007), age was strongly correlated with pregnancy, and race and ethnicity were significantly associated with a family history of teenage births. East et al. (2007) wanted to gather the most accurate results and thus the participants were Mexican American and black families as those groups have disproportionally high rates of teenage pregnancy and birth according to East et al. (2007). 


As per Table.3, young women who had a sister who had had a teenage birth and those who had both a sister and a mother who had had a teenage birth had higher odds of experiencing a pregnancy than young women who had no family history of teenage births. Young women who had only a mother who had had a teenage birth did not differ significantly in terms of pregnancy risk from those who had no family history of teenage births (East et al., 2007)

The article discusses endless statistics from studies where most, if not all, support the idea that having a sister and a mother who had had a teenage birth are each associated with increased risk of pregnancy. Of the different sibling relationship measures done by East et al. (2007), only frequent companionship with an older sister was significantly associated with the risk of teenage pregnancy, whereas frequent rivalry with an older sister was marginally associated with pregnancy risk. 

East, P. L. (1999). The First Teenage Pregnancy in the Family: Does if Affect Mothers’ Parenting, Attitudes, or Mother-Adolescent Communication?. Journal of Marriage and the Family, (61)2. 1-51. Retrieved from!po=40.1961

It is very important to understand the effect and consequences that adolescence pregnancy and childbearing has for the family. East (1999) did a study consisting of 189 mothers from three types of families; families in which all teenage daughter had never been pregnant, families in which only one teenager was currently pregnant, and families in which only one teenager had delivered a baby within the previous 6 months. When an adolescent bears a child at that young age, it is reasonable to believe that it will have an effect on the adolescent’s family. East (1999), states that the younger siblings of teenage mothers have an increased rate of early parenthood. Teenage pregnancy becomes acceptable in the family and results indicate that compared with mothers of never-pregnant teens, the mothers of teen parents monitor their children less. It is also discussed that a teenager’s pregnancy might just reduce the mother’s achievement expectation for the other children thus making sexual activity at an early age seem normal. Mothers of pregnant teens showed considerable amount of decreased monitoring and communication, and increased acceptance of teenage sexuality. This “creates a prime context for younger siblings to engage in delinquent or sexual behavior” (East, 1999, p. 18), which makes the younger siblings of teen parents vulnerable to follow in their footsteps as teen parents.

Cox, J., Emans, S.J., & Bithoney, W. (1993) Sisters of teen mothers: Increased risk for adolescent parenthood. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 6(3). 138-142. Retrieved from

The objective of this study was to examine the same hypothesis as mentioned in the above articles; that sisters of adolescent mothers are at an increased risk for early parenthood compared to other teens without child bearing teen siblings (Cox, Emans, & Bithoney 1993). The study took place in Massachusetts and included the City of Boston etc. The study concluded that sisters of adolescent mothers are at an increased risk of teen parenthood mainly because of the exposure to a pregnant sister which normalizes the idea of premature parenthood and make it acceptable for the rest of the family. The study looked at 112 teenage sisters of 78 consecutive teen mothers over 4 years. The data collected supported the hypothesis as before the teenage mother reached her 12 week gestation, the rate  of sister teen pregnancy reached 138.5/1000. The article includes several other statistics and confidence intervals which further support the hypothesis. The idea as to why this occurs is discussed as because teenage pregnancy becomes acceptable in the family and results indicate that compared with mothers of never-pregnant teens, the mothers of teen parents cannot justify that teen pregnancy is not okay if one of the children is a teen parent. 



The Link Between Childhood Maltreatment and Teenage Pregnancy

Smith, C. (1996). The link between childhood maltreatment and teenage pregnancy. Social Work Research,20(3), 131-141. Retrieved from

This article examines the relationship between teenage pregnancy and childhood maltreatment through a study conducted on 249 teenage women. It was determined that teenagers who experienced maltreatment in their childhood have a higher risk for pregnancy. There have been other studies that have made linkages between sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy that also found that teenage mothers did not experience only sexual abuse but other forms of maltreatment as well such as emotional abuse, physical abuse and neglect. As according to the article, another study by Boyer and Fine reported that 36% of pregnant teenagers had suffered from emotional abuse and 64% and suffered from physical abuse and neglect. Furthermore, the article’s results indicated that 62% of the 35 maltreated participants became pregnant, while only 40% of the non-maltreated group became pregnant. However, the higher percentage could be also a result of the combined associated with maltreatment, like a negative self-image, and poor relationships with others causing earlier sexual activity. Hence, in order to prevent pregnancy among maltreated teenagers, intervention with their families must occur.

Physical Abuse

Teenage Pregnancy and Its Relationship to Childhood Physical and Sexual Abuse: Feelings of Personal Control

Glazer-Rosoff, K. (1997). Teenage pregnancy and its relationship to childhood physical and sexual abuse: Feelings of personal control. (Doctoral dissertation), Available from PsycINFO. (UMI No. 9728924).

This dissertation discusses the connection between childhood physical and sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy and feelings of person control. It is suggested that a relationship exists between the development of a female’s control and adolescent pregnancy and childhood abuse. It also discusses the notion that adolescents who experienced physical and/or sexual abuse they have no control over their bodies or actions. This discusses the theories of adolescent development and pregnancy, which focus on the implication that societal factors are the cause of pregnancy, rather than blaming the adolescent. It’s a combination of multiple factors like abuse, acceptance of early sexual behaviour, socioeconomic background, or family influences that result in teenage pregnancy. The developmental stages by Eric Erikson are considered as well. The developmental stage during adolescence, where the individual must positively solve the task of identity vs. identity confusion, the ego identity formation process becomes affected and leads to identity confusion. Abused or neglected adolescents feel as they do not have a control over their environment, therefore may not have control over their lives. They may not have control over their sexuality because of this, resulting in pregnancy. Prevention of abuse must occur in order to encourage healthy development in female adolescents and thus decreasing the risk for pregnancy at an earlier age.

Childhood Victimization and Subsequent Risk for Promiscuity, Prostitution, and Teenage Pregnancy: A Prospective Study

Widom, C., & Kuhns, J. (1996). Childhood victimization and subsequent risk for promiscuity, prostitution, and teenage pregnancy: A prospective study.American Journal of Public Health, 86(11), 1607–1612. Retrieved from

This article investigates how childhood abuse and neglect heightens an individual’s risk for promiscuity, prostitution and teenage pregnancy. The control group of this experiment consisted of individuals that were not abused, and an experiment group, a group of individuals that were abused as children. The independent variables included age, race and sex. The results illustrated that although childhood physical abuse and neglect was a major contributing factor of prostitution for females, it was not a major contributing factor to teenage pregnancy or teenage promiscuity. These results do not illustrate similar findings reported in other studies; this may be due to the addition of a control group. Widom and Kuhns concludes the teenagers with low economic background have an increased risk of pregnancy rather than those who experienced physical abuse.

Sexual Abuse

The Relationship of Childhood Sexual Abuse to Teenage Pregnancy

Roosa, M., Tein, J.-Y., Reinholtz, C., & Angelini, P. (1997). The relationship of childhood sexual abuse to teenage pregnancy. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 59(1), 119-130. doi:

The relationship between childhood sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy was investigated and results found that sexual abuse was not an indicator for teenage pregnancy alone. It was further investigated whether there were other factors involved in sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy. The results demonstrated that even though women who were sexually abused as children were much more likely than their non-abused counterparts to become teenage mothers, sexual abuse itself is not a major factor influencing the phenomena. Other factors, such as socio-demographic factors play a role as well and should be looked over as well.

The Effect of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Adolescent Pregnancy: An Integrative Research Review

Francisco, M., Hicks, K., Powell, J., Styles, K., Tabor , J., & Hulton, L. (2008). The effect of childhood sexual abuse on adolescent pregnancy: An integrative research review. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, 13(4), 237-248. doi:

This study, an integrative research review, aimed to find to a link between childhood sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy. There are have various studies done on this relationship, however there has been conflicting evidence about the relationship between the two. Francisco et al., conducted a review of 13 research articles. The results of this study portrayed that the majority of studies established a link between sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy. However, a few who did not a substantial link, did find a strong link between childhood abuse and sexually risky behaviour. Childhood physical or emotional abuse did not have a strong correlation with teenage pregnancy and different types of abuse have different effect on adolescent development. According to the research review, there are many risk factors associated with teenage pregnancy, for example, substance abuse or family conflict. Francisco et al., concludes that sexual abuse may lead to early sexual activity and consequently, teenage pregnancy.


Watching Sex on Television Predicts Adolescent Initiation of Sexual Behavior

Collins, R., Marc, C., Berry, S., Kanouse, D., Kunkel, D., Hunter, S., Miu, A. (2004, September 4). Watching Sex on Television Predicts Adolescent Initiation of Sexual
. Pediatrics. Vol. 114, (3). Retrieved from

This articles indicates how some teenagers wish they would have waited longer for having sex. And due to such activities results in teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that exposure of sex on television leads to early sexual behaviour. This study conducted a national longitudinal telephone survey of 1792 adolescences , 12-17 years of age. During the first year they asked questions such as how many hours of television do you watch? Is there any sexual content? Have you ever had sex? and so on. This gave a baseline of how much sexual activity they participated, in the first year 17% had intercourse. So the experimenters made a list of programs for the teenagers to watch with specific type of sexual behaviour, such as flirting, kissing, sex talk, actual sex, the risk of sex and the responsibilities. They made a hypothesis that if they were exposed to more of these type of content then their will be a rise of sexual activities. A year later the survey was taken again, they discovered that there was 12% increase of intercourse amongst the adolescences. This study concluded that if there is more sexual content present then the teenagers will exhibit early behaviour leading to teenage pregnancy and STD's. The article suggested to prevent the effect of media on the children, then the parents can control what the child watches, or have the parents watch it with them, or even have a serious sex talk explaining the consequences of sex. This article did a great job from looking at it from a casual theory perspective, leading to concrete results of what caused the sexual behaviour and what is resulted in. However, this article did not do a very good job focusing on the teenage pregnancy rate, it just made an assumption that if the sexual rate increases then the teenage pregnancy will increase as well.

Does Watching Sex on Television predict Teen Pregnancy?

Berry, S. H., Chandra, A., Collins, R. L., Elliott, M. N., Kanouse, D. E., Martino, S. C., & Miu, A. (2008). Does watching sex on television predict teen pregnancy? findings from a national longitudinal survey of youth. Pediatrics, 122(5), 1047-1054. Retrieved from

Television may pose a risk of increasing teen pregnancy by stimulating the young minds with sexual content in television shows. A study was done to see if there was a link between exposure to sexual content on television and teenage pregnancy. A survey was conducted on teens between the ages of 12-17 and their results were compared to the people between the ages of 15-20 years. The data collected from the survey was used to assess whether exposure to sexual content on television could be a variable in predicting pregnancy for girls, or responsibility taken in pregnancy for boys. The participants were measured for three years. In the three years of measuring, it was seen that the teens who were had a higher exposure to sexual content on television had double the chance of becoming pregnant than those who had low exposure. Television is shown to have provide lax attitudes towards using contraceptives. It has also shown adolescents that there aren't many repercussions for sex. There was a study done in relation to the use of condoms and exposure to music videos with sexual themes. The results exhibited that the more exposure they had to sexual music videos, the less likely they were to use a condom during sex.

Societal Hypocrisy helps promote Teenage Pregnancy

Evans, T. (1986). Societal hypocrisy helps promote teenage pregnancy. Journal of the national medical association, 78(5), 361-364. Retrieved from

Our society is hypocritical in which the media promotes sex by using sexual themes, sexual comments, and innuendos, while it refuses to promote or educate their audience about contraceptives. The census bureau showed that teenagers watch nearly 30 hours of television each week and listen to the radio 20 hours of week. There were two studies done; one on television scenes, and another on soap operas. Television shows contained 9,230 scenes of sexually suggested themes. In soap operas, extramarital sex is conveyed very frequently. Between watching shows, the commercials that are seen can contain sexual scenes. Commercials, on average, show between 70 to 90 sexually suggested themes in a day. In another form of media, the radio stations play many songs that contain sexual words and connotations that are being heard by a young audience. Teenagers are constantly surrounded by messages of sexually related themes; the promotion of it has caused the higher rate of teenage pregnancy. Through the help of the media teenagers are thought about how sex is amazing and how good it feels. Yet there aren't many advertisements promoting the uses of contraceptives. This leads to teenagers being informed about the concept of sex, but no concept on how to protect themselves and avoid pregnancy.

Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media

Committee on Communication. (1995, February 2). Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media. Pediatrics. Vol. 95, (2). Retrieved from

This article discusses how about half of America females and 2/3 of made have had sexual intercourse by the age of 17. And before the age of 18, on average 18% of females would have had 4 or more partners and males would have more than 5. However, the teenagers will seek advice about sex only after they have had experienced sexual intercourse. The result of early behaviour like this leads to unwanted pregnancy and STD's. The Guttmacher Report found that the teenage pregnancy rate in United States was two to five times higher than other developed countries and one of the main reasons is because of the inappropriate portray of sexuality in the American media. The reason is because American media depicts on average about 14000 sexual references and only about 165 will talk about birth control, self control, abstinence and the consequences of unprotected sex. So to prevent unwanted pregnancy, teenagers must have discussions about sexual decisions with the family and a critical view on how to make pro-sexual choices such as protection or abstinence. This article did a good job connecting to why the teenage pregnancy rate is high with media by showing the statistics of what kind of media is portrayed. However, it focused on the sexual content of MTV and Soap-Operas instead of being a little more broad aspect of media.


Media and Sex: Perspectives from Hispanic Teens

Polacek, G., Rojas,V., Levitt, S,. Mika, V. (2006). Media and Sex: Perspectives from Hispanic Teens. American Journal of Sexuality Education. Vol. 1 (4). Retrieved from

This article states how teenagers who become pregnant are less likely to finish high school, 75% of Hispanic female teens who become pregnant will not finish school. They will experience difficulties in delivering, being in poverty and there is a high chance of the child being abused. In 2003 the San Antonio/ Bexar County birth rate for teenagers between ages of 15-17 were 40.4 per 1000. There is not much information on why this is occurring however, media is the suspected cause. There has been studies that revealed that viewing television increased sexual activity. To expand on that, the purpose of this study is to show how media influences the teens behaviour. This has a social cognitive theory aspect because it shows how teenagers think about their experiences and how these thoughts and experiences impact their behavior, so if on television they see casual sex with no consequences then there is a likely chance teenagers will expect the same result. So this study got Hispanic students ages from 14-18, and asked them various questions, such as "Does media contain any sexual content?" "What do you think the media tells you about sex?". Their response was that media is where they learned about sex and sexual behaviour, and that media was the cause of them engaging in intercourse. This article is interpretive since it's based on personal experience and interpretation of the teenagers. Additionally, it does a great job at connecting how media influence sexual activity and how the rates of teen pregnancy increase. However, it only focuses on the Hispanic teenagers and not any other ethnicity, even though it might be a micro projection of what is happening in the world, there is still going to be difference amongst other cultures.

Boys will be boys and girls better be prepared: An analysis of the rare sexual health messages in young adolescents' media.

Hust, S. J. T., Brown, J. D., & L'Engle, K. L. (2008). Boys will be boys and girls better be prepared: An analysis of the rare sexual health messages in young adolescents' media. Mass Communication & Society, 11(1). 3-23. Retrieved from:

Quantitative analysis was used to determine the amount of sexual content in television, magazines, music, and movies, which was popular between adolescents in the ages of 12-14. The results showed that the four types of media contained very little information about sexual health content. Another quantitative analysis research done on the sexual health content revealed that sexual health content that was exhibited in the four types of media was ambiguous and/or inaccurate. On television prime-time programs, it was seen that for boys, sex is considered a form of masculinity. In magazines sex was described as very pleasurable, with little information about sexual health. The four types of media have also made subjects concerning sex seem embarrassing and/or humiliating, which can lead adolescents to feel scared to ask questions about sex. Media as a great influence on an adolescents mind. The media has become a tool for adolescents to learn more about sex, due to parents finding it difficult to talk about sex and schools reverting to teaching about abstinence.


The following are ways to prevent unintended teenage pregnancies and to reduce their adverse effects as according to Fullerton, Dickson, Eastwood, & Sheldon (1997).

  • Abstinence programmes
  • School based building skills combined with factual information
  • School based and school linked clinics
  • Features associated with successful education programmes
  • Cost effectiveness of contraceptive services
  • Antenal care
  • School based programmes linked with contraceptive services
  • Parental education support
  • Social support and parenting

Fullerton, D., R. Dickson, A. J. Eastwood, and T. A. Sheldon. (1997). Preventing Unintended Teenage Pregnancies and Reducing Their Adverse Effects. Quality and Safety in Health Care, 6(2). 102-08. Retrieved from

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