Childbirth rates higher for abused teenaged girls

April 1, 2013

Teenaged birth rates among abused or neglected adolescent girls are more than double the birth rate of their peers who never experienced abuse and more than 3 times the rate for girls who were never neglected, according to a new study.

Teenaged birth rates among sexually abused or neglected adolescent girls are more than double the birth rate of their peers who never experienced abuse and more than 3 times the rate for girls who were never neglected.

The findings held true regardless of race, family income, and whether the girls were from 1-parent or 2-parent families.

Researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center studied 435 nulliparous girls aged from 14 to 17 years, assessing them annually from 2007 to 2012 through age 19 to track their sexual activities, pregnancies, and motherhood. About half the participants were referred by Child Protective Services agencies for having been victims of substantiated sexual or physical abuse or neglect within the preceding 12 months. Controls without maltreatment were matched for race, family income, age, and family configuration. Births were confirmed using hospital medical records.

Fifty-four girls in the abused and neglected groups and 16 girls in the comparison group gave birth during the study. Birth rates were twice as high for the maltreated girls (20.3%) as the rate for the comparison group (9.4%). The birth rate for abused and neglected girls was nearly 5 times the 3.43% national rate of teen motherhood reported for 2010.

Physical abuse was not a significant predictor of subsequent teenaged childbirth during the study.

Child maltreatment affects more than 350,000 girls aged younger than 18 years annually in the United States. Researchers say that developing strategies to reduce the risk of teenaged births in this population will subsequently reduce the overall teenaged birth rate and return 4 times the investment in public health savings for every dollar spent on prevention.