New research published in the Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that teens who are under the age of 15 and who become pregnant are almost three times more likely to be Hispanic rather than non-Hispanic whites. Not only are these teens having children, but they’re having them with much older sexual partners.
Researchers suggest that the girls who become pregnant prior to the age of 15 are more likely to be in a relationship where the power is unequal. The teens involved in the study had much older lovers, typically at least six years older than they were.
The findings from this most recent study go along with previous data on Latina teen pregnancy. Latinas and African American teens have seen little drop in pregnancy numbers over the last decade, while statistics for non-Hispanic whites have been declining. Not only are the numbers for Latina teens holding steady, they are more likely than other girls to have multiple teen births.
Overall, Latinas are more than twice as likely to have a teenage birth–under the age of 15 or otherwise–compared to non-Hispanic whites.
Much of this disparity has been attributed to a lack of knowledge and accessibility regarding contraceptives among the Hispanic community, though cultural beliefs about large families may play a role. As the research into this area grows, however, more and more information is coming to light about why Latinas may be more likely than other teens to become pregnant.
A recent study, for example, published in the journal Pediatrics, indicated teen pregnancy was higher among girls with severe mental illness. While no specific conclusions by researchers were drawn between those findings and the rate of Latina teen pregnancy, Latina teens are considered a high-risk group when it comes to conditions like depression and thoughts of suicide.
Since I was raised in a largely Hispanic community in New Jersey, I can say that I’ve seen this first hand. In 9th grade, I had a Dominican friend who thought it was something to brag about to have a 20 year old boyfriend. I not only found it odd, but also disgusting that her parents approved of it, because he had a job and took “care” of her. Although they’re still together to this day, it still doesn’t excuse the fact that he was still a minor when he was involved with her. By the time she was in her junior year of high school, she was on baby number two.
The researchers behind the study hope that medical professionals can form outreach to help the Latina demographic and lower the number of teen pregnancies.
“Understanding risk factors for pregnancy before age 15 years may help clinicians address the social, family planning, and reproductive health needs of this population,” the study stated.