Social disadvantage as a risk for first pregnancy among adolescent females in the United States

Krishna K. Upadhya, Jonathan M. Ellen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Purpose: Differences in underlying determinants of pregnancy at different stages of adolescent development have implications for prevention strategies. We sought to determine whether social disparities in rates of adolescent pregnancy vary between early, middle, and late adolescence. We hypothesized that as age increases, racial and socioeconomic disparities in rates of teen conception decrease. Methods: Data were obtained from the National Survey of Family Growth cycle 6. Outcome variables indicated whether respondents had a first pregnancy at ages <15 years, 1517 years, or 1819 years. Independent variables were race and maternal education level. Logistic regression was used to calculate the relative odds of first conception in a given age range by race and maternal education level. Results: The disparity in odds of pregnancy between black and white teens is maximal in early adolescence (odds ratios <15 years: 3.9) and decreased by nearly 50% in late adolescence (odds ratios 1819 years: 2.0, p <.01). After stratifying by maternal education level, the same trends are seen. Conclusions: In accordance with our hypothesis, we found that social disparities in pregnancy rates decrease between early and late adolescence. Although pregnancy prevention efforts often target those at social risk including poor minority youth, fewer acknowledge and target the risks associated with development of sexuality in all teens. Efforts to better define the nature of healthy adolescent sexual development may lead to pregnancy prevention interventions focused on developmental risk that can apply to a wider set of adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-541
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent development
  • Adolescent pregnancy
  • Adolescent sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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