- Teen Births
- Disconnected Youth
- Low Birthweight and Preterm Births
- Prenatal Care
- Teen Sexual Health
- Why This Topic Is Important
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 (1, 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 billions of dollars 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:
1. Child Trends Databank. (2014). Teen births. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=teen-births
2. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2007). Why it matters: Teen pregnancy and overall child well-being. Retrieved from: http://thenationalcampaign.org/resource/why-it-matters-teen-pregnancy-and-overall-child-wellbeing
3. Ng, A. S., & Kaye, K. (2013). Why it matters: Teen childbearing and child welfare. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved from: http://thenationalcampaign.org/resource/why-it-matters-teen-childbearing-and-child-welfare
4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2015). Healthy People 2020: Family planning. Retrieved from: http://healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=13
5. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2014). Counting it up: Key data. Retrieved from: http://thenationalcampaign.org/resource/public-costs-teen-childbearing-united-states
- How Children Are Faring
The teen birth rate in California decreased by 63% between 1995 and 2013, from 62.9 to 23.2 per 1,000 young women ages 15-19. This decline was evident at the county level, as well; teen birth rates dropped in all counties with available data during this period. Despite this decrease, many counties continue to have high rates, with some exceeding 45 teen births per 1,000 young women in 2013. The majority of the state’s teen births are to women ages 18 to 19, though rates declined for all teen age groups (under 15, 15-17, and 18-19) from 1995 to 2013.
Trends among racial/ethnic groups can be compared for the period of 2000-2013 (racial definitions changed in 2000). Teen birth rates in California decreased for all racial/ethnic groups during that time. However, large differences remain. In 2013, the teen birth rate among Latina youth was 34.9 per 1,000, compared to 28.9 for American Indian/Alaska Native, 28.3 for African American/Black, 16.5 for multiracial, 9.2 for White, and 4.8 for Asian/Pacific Islander teens.
- Policy Implications
The teen birth rate in the U.S. is at its lowest level in seven decades, but it still is higher than the teen birth rates of other developed nations (1, 2, 3). Early sexual activity and ineffective or non-use of contraceptives contribute to teen births (3, 4, 5). 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 (4). Teen mothers are less likely to complete high school or go to college compared to older mothers (3, 4). Also, nearly one in five teen births is a repeat birth, meaning many teen parents have multiple children before they are 20 (5). Government at all levels—including the school-district—as well as the health care sector, media, advocacy organizations, parents, and peers can influence teen sexual activity, pregnancy, and births.
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could influence teen births include:
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 Graduation, and Family Income and Poverty.
- 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, 6, 7)
- Funding youth development programs that encourage teens to think about and plan for their futures and engage them in their communities (3, 4, 5, 7)
- Funding home visiting and health interventions targeted at preventing subsequent pregnancies for teen mothers (4, 5, 7)
- Ensuring access to quality prenatal care and infant care and support for teen parents via youth-friendly clinical services (4).
Sources for this narrative:
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Sexual experience and contraceptive use among female teens—United States, 1995, 2002, and 2006-2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 61(17), 297-301. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6117a1.htm?s_cid=mm6117a1_e
2. Hamilton, B. E., & Ventura, S. J. (2012). Birth rates for U.S. teenagers reach historic lows for all age and ethnic groups (NCHS Data Brief No. 89). National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db89.htm
3. Basch, C. E. (2011). Teen pregnancy and the achievement gap among urban minority youth. Journal of School Health, 81(10), 614-618. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00635.x/full
4. Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy. (2008). Teenage births: Outcomes for young parents and their children. Retrieved from: http://www.scaany.org/documents/teen_pregnancy_dec08.pdf
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Vital signs: Repeat births among teens—United States, 2007-2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(13), 249-255. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6213a4.htm?s_cid=mm6213a4_w
6. 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
7. Boonstra, H. D. (2010). Winning campaign: California’s concerted effort to reduce its teen pregnancy rate. Guttmacher Policy Review, 13(2), 18-24. Retrieved from: https://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/gpr/13/2/gpr130218.html
- Websites with Related Information
- Advocates for Youth
- Child Trends: Teen Pregnancy and Reproductive Health
- Guttmacher Institute: United States Teens
- Journal of Adolescent Health
- Physicians for Reproductive Health
- Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, California Department of Public Health
- The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
- Key Reports and Research
- American Teens' Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2016, Guttmacher Institute
- Avoiding Adolescent Pregnancy: A Longitudinal Analysis of African-American Youth, 7/2013, Journal of Adolescent Health, Kogan, S. M., et al.
- Preventing Teen Pregnancy: A Key Role for Health Care Providers, 4/2015, CDC Vital Signs
- Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy, Sexually Transmitted Infections, and Associated Sexual Risk Behaviors: A Systematic Review, 2013, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Goesling, B., et al.
- Sexual Initiation, Contraceptive Use, and Pregnancy Among Young Adolescents, 2013, Pediatrics, Finer, L. B., & Philbin, J. M.
- Sociocultural Determinants of Teenage Childbearing Among Latinas in California, 2010, Maternal and Child Health Journal, Dehlendorf, C., et al.
- Teen Birth Rates Are Declining, But The Job Is Not Done, 5/4/2015, Child Trends
- The High Cost of Unintended Pregnancy (CCF Brief No. 45), 7/2011, Center on Children and Families, The Brookings Institution, Thomas, A., & Monea, E.
- Trends and Recent Estimates: Contraceptive Use Among U.S. Teens and Young Adults, 2011, Child Trends, Welti, K., et al.
- What if You Earned a Diploma and Delayed Parenthood? Intergenerational Simulations of Delayed Childbearing and Increased Education (Research Brief No. 2014-27), 7/2014, Child Trends, Moore, K. A., et al.
- What Works for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health: Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Interventions, 2014, Child Trends, Fish, H., et al.
- County/Regional Reports
- 2014 Youth Wellbeing Report Card, Santa Monica Cradle to Career
- 2017 Kern County Report Card, Kern County Network for Children
- California Adolescent Sexual Needs Health Index (CASHNI), 2014, California Dept. of Public Health
- Community Health Assessment 2015, Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health
- County of San Mateo Adolescent Report 2014-15, San Mateo County Health System
- Fresno Community Scorecard
- More Data Sources For Teen Births
- Childstats.gov, Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics
- Diversitydatakids.org, Brandeis University, Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy
- KIDS COUNT Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation
- No Time for Complacency: Teen Births in California, Center for Research on Adolescent Health and Development, Public Health Institute
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