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August 1995

Teenage Childbearing: An Adaptive Strategy for the Socioeconomically Disadvantaged or a Strategy for Adapting to Socioeconomic Disadvantage?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Adolescent Medicine, University of Colorado Health Science Center, Denver.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(8):912-915. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170210086015

Objective:  To examine the relation between childbearing and educational and vocational achievements of American females high school students.

Data Source:  Articles published in English during the past decade about the educational, vocational, and socioeconomic sequelae of childbearing among female high school students.

Data Selection:  Articles that did not contain data about the relation between adolescent childbearing and educational and vocational achievement were excluded.

Data Synthesis:  Most females who begin childbearing during adolescence obtain less schooling and poorer-paying jobs than do females who postpone childbearing. The reasons for this are elusive. Differences in the family and cultural backgrounds of early (high school–age) and later (18 years and older) childbearers explain some but not all of the association between early childbearing and educational and vocational underachievement. The effect of childbearing preferences on the educational and vocational achievements of teenagers has not been studied adequately. Lack of concrete information could result in underestimation of the effect of early childbearing on the socioeconomic well-being of young Americans, and create the impression that adolescent pregnancy is an adaptive response to urban poverty.

Conclusions:  As much as the long-term socioeconomic sequelae of adolescent childbearing reflect factors that influence the judgments young people make about the costs and benefits of contraception and parenthood, adolescent childbearing is a means of adapting to urban poverty. Thus postponing adolescent conceptions and parenthood may have a less important effect on the socioeconomic well-being of young Americans than expected.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:912-915)

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