Abuse, neglect connected to teen motherhood

April 4, 2013

Sexual abuse and neglect are unique predictors of subsequent teen childbirth. This is the conclusion of a study published online by the journal Pediatrics on March 25, 2013.

 

Sexual abuse and neglect are unique predictors of subsequent teen childbirth. This is the conclusion of a study published online by the journal Pediatrics on March 25, 2013.

Researchers Jennie G. Noll, PhD, and Chad E. Shenk, PhD, both of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, prospectively tracked births to teenaged girls who had been maltreated. Their goal was to test the hypothesis that child maltreatment is an independent predictor of subsequent teenaged childbirth “over and above demographic characteristics and other risk factors.”

For the study, 435 nulliparous adolescent females aged 14 to 17 were assessed annually through age 19. Maltreated girls were referred by local Child Protective Services agencies for having experienced substantiated sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect within the preceding 12 months. Comparison subjects (who were not maltreated) were matched by race, family income, age, and family composition. Teenaged childbirth was assessed via self-report during annual interviews. These births were confirmed using hospital delivery records.

During the course of the study, 70 participants gave birth: 54 in the maltreated group (a rate of 20.3%) and 16 in the comparison group (a rate of 9.4%). Maltreated study participants were twice as likely to experience childbirth after controlling for demographic confounds and known risk factors (OR = 2.17, P = 0.01). Birth rates were highest for girls who had been sexually abused and neglected.