Teenage Latinas and non-Hispanic black females with below-average reading skills are the two groups most affected by a new link between reading skills and teen pregnancy, established through research presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.
Literacy as risk factor for teen pregnancy
According to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, teens with below-average reading skills consistently had a higher percentage of teenage pregnancy when compared to girls of the same age with above-average reading skills.
“It is quite possible that adolescent girls who experience a daily sense of rejection in the classroom might feel as though they have little chance of achievement later on in life,” Rosemary Frasso, PhD, researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, said in a statement. ”Our findings underscore the role of literacy as its own social risk factor throughout the life-course.”
For the research, data was gathered from approximately 12,300 girls around an average age of 11.9 years enrolled in the Philadelphia Public School system.
The findings revealed girls with below-average reading skills were 2.5 times more likely to have a child during their teenage years when compared to girls of the same age with above-average reading skills. Among teens with below-average reading skills, 21 percent of girls had a second child during their teen years, and 3 percent of girls with below-average reading skills had two or more additional births before age 20.
There were some cases of teen pregnancy among girls with above-average reading skills, indicate study authors; however, the birth rates were found to be lower. Among girls with above-average reading skills, 12 percent had one teenage birth and 1 percent had multiple births before age 20.
Ethnic and racial background, literacy and teen pregnancy
The study findings also pointed to a link between racial disparities and literacy.
Researchers indicate Latinas and African-Americans were overrepresented in the group with below-average reading skills, thus linking them to a higher rate of teenage pregnancy.
When it came to these minority groups, study researchers found literacy issues earlier in life often contributed to school dropout rates later on and therefore, more probability of teen pregnancy.
Though scheduled to be published in the February 2013 issue of the journal Contraception, all results should be considered preliminary until they have been peer reviewed.