On kidsdata.org, data for teen births (overall, by age of mother, and by race/ethnicity) are provided as numbers and rates (i.e., the number of births per 1,000 adolescent girls, ages 15-19).
Infants of teen mothers are at higher risk for physical, social, and emotional challenges than infants of mothers in their 20s and early 30s (1). Teen mothers are more likely to have babies born prematurely or with low birthweight. They also are more likely to have babies who die in infancy, compared to mothers in their 20s and 30s (1). Children born to teen mothers are at increased risk for academic and behavioral problems, such as lower math and reading achievement and poorer motor, communication, and social skills (1, 2). In addition, children born to teens are more likely to enter the foster care system and to become teen parents themselves than children born to older mothers (3). Of course, not all children born to teens face these difficulties, and many go on to lead productive and healthy lives.
Giving birth as a teenager also can create disadvantages for the mother and the father. Teen mothers are more likely to become welfare dependent than other teens (1), and teen parenthood for both mothers and fathers is associated with lower educational attainment and lower income levels (4). Fiscal hardship can be compounded by the fact that teen mothers are less likely to be married or stay married, which may mean covering family expenses on their own (1). However, it is important to note that some teen parents are able to manage these challenges successfully, become competent parents, and reach their educational or career goals later in life.
Research estimates that teen births cost society at least $10.9 billion annually, most of which is associated with negative outcomes for the children of teen parents, including increased costs for health care, foster care, incarceration, lost productivity, and tax revenue (1, 5).
See kidsdata.org's Research & Links section for more information about teen births.
Sources for this narrative:
- Child Trends. (2010). Teen births. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/52
- Terry-Humen, E., Manlove, J., & Moore, K. A. (2005). Playing catch-up: How children born to teen mothers fare. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Retrieved from: http://www.teenpregnancy.org/works/pdf/PlayingCatchUp.pdf
- The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2010). Why it matters: Teen pregnancy and child welfare. Retrieved from: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/why-it-matters/pdf/child_welfare.pdf
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Healthy People 2020: Family planning. Retrieved from: http://healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=13
- The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy. (2011). Counting it up: The public costs of teen childbearing. Retrieved from: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/costs/default.aspx
The U.S. has the highest teen birth rates among leading developed nations (1). Early sexual activity and ineffective or non-use of contraceptives contribute to teen births, as does peer pressure and the perception of a lack of positive alternatives. Children of teen moms are more likely to be born prematurely or at a low birthweight, and they tend to have poorer academic and behavioral outcomes than children born to older mothers (2). Teen mothers also are less likely to complete high school or go to college compared to older mothers (2). (For more information on consequences related to teen births, see "Why This Topic Is Important," above.) Government at all levels—including school districts—as well as the media, parents, and teens can influence teen sexual activity, pregnancy, and births.
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could influence teen births include:
- Funding and empowering school districts to provide proven, curriculum-based teen pregnancy prevention programs that encourage both delaying sexual activity and informed use of contraception among sexually active teens; programs should be offered during and after school (3, 4)
- Funding youth development programs that encourage teen girls to think about and plan for their futures (3, 5)
- Offering service learning opportunities to teens that engage them in their communities and give them positive ways to contribute (3, 5)
- Funding home visiting and health interventions targeted at preventing subsequent pregnancies for teen mothers (5)
For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, The Guttmacher Institute, or the California Adolescent Health Collaborative. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Low Birthweight and Preterm Births, Teen Sexual Health, Dating and Domestic Violence, High School Dropouts, and Poverty.
Sources for this narrative:
- Abma, J. C., et al. (2010). Teenagers in the United States: Sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing, National Survey of Family Growth 2006–2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_030.pdf
- Child Trends. (n.d.). Teen births. Accessed August 11, 2011 from: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/52
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health. (2010). Programs for replication – Intervention implementation reports. Retrieved from: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/tpp/index.html
- National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2011). What works 2011-12: Curriculum-based programs that help prevent teen pregnancy. Retrieved from: http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/pubs/WhatWorks.pdf
- Ball, V., & Moore, K. A. (2008). What works for adolescent reproductive health: Lessons from experimental evaluations of programs and interventions. Child Trends. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/Files/Child_Trends-2008_05_20_FS_WhatWorksRepro.pdf
The teen birth rate in California decreased by more than 50% between 1995 and 2010, from 62.9 per 1,000 young women ages 15-19 to 29.0. Similarly, teen birth rates declined in all counties with available data in this period. In 2010, county rates ranged from 10.0 to 64.4. The majority of the state’s teen births are to young women ages 18 to 19, consistent with previous years, though statewide rates declined for all age groups (under 15, 15-17, and 18-19) from 1995 to 2010.
Trends among racial/ethnic groups can be compared for the period of 2000-2010 (racial definitions changed in 2000). Teen birth rates in California decreased for all racial/ethnic groups during that time. However, disparities persist. In 2010, the teen birth rate among Hispanic/Latina youth was 45.0 per 1,000, compared to 34.0 for African American/Black, 25.4 for Multiracial, 22.2 American Indian/Alaska Native, 10.9 for white, and 7.3 for Asian/Pacific Islander teens.