Psychosocial variables associated with teenage pregnancy
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This study investigates whether psychosocial factors differentiate sexually-active adolescents who become pregnant from those who do not. The hypothesis of the study is that suburban middle-class adolescents who become pregnant unintentionally will differ from their sexually-active peers on the dimensions of self-worth, locus of control and impact of negative life events during the past year, and on selected sociodemographic variables. These hypotheses are examined in two ways: as a three-group comparison in which never-pregnant adolescents are compared to adolescents who present for pregnancy tests, one sub-group; having negative tests and one subgroup having positive tests; and as a two-group comparison in which sexually-active but never pregnant adolescents are compared to adolescents who are now or were ever pregnant. Data was collected from 64 unmarried adolescents (ages 15 to 21) who attended a suburban health clinic from January-August, 1989. Each participating teenager completed a background information sheet and 3 self-report measures (impact of life events, self-worth, health locus of control) prior to her medical visit. Information about family, medical and psychosocial history was gathered from chart review. The subject population was predominantly white (75%), lower SES, with a mean age of 18. When girls who came in for pregnancy tests were compared with girls who had never been pregnant, no significant differences emerged on major demographic or psychological variables. There was a significant difference between groups, however, on the variable of having a deceased mother. When ever-pregnant adolescents were compared with never-pregnant girls, two significant differences emerged: ever-pregnant teenagers had first intercourse at a younger age (15 rather than 16) and scored higher than never-pregnant teenagers on the powerful other locus of control subscale, a measure of strong belief in external control by others. It is interesting to note that self-worth and impact of negative life events were not significantly different between pregnant and never-pregnant teenagers. Our data suggest that sexually-active suburban teenagers, irrespective of pregnancy, are in general a homogeneous group psychologically. However, the significant differences that did emerge between groups indicates a need for further research. In particular, the question of whether those who turn to others for decision-making are at higher risk for pregnancy than those who are self-reliant, needs to be addressed.