Teenage Childbearing among Latinos: Understanding Diverse Experiences

Beautiful pregnant young womanA new CDC report documents substantial declines in teen births in the United States over the past four years, with especially dramatic declines among Hispanic teens.  Despite these declines, Hispanic women are still most likely to have a teen birth.

An estimated 24 percent of young Hispanic women will have a birth before they reach age 20, compared with only 10 percent of white women.1 

Currently, one in five U.S. adolescents is Hispanic, and that proportion is projected to grow to one in three in 2050, highlighting the importance of continuing to target teen pregnancy prevention efforts to this population. Additionally, published teen birth rates mask important diversity within the Hispanic population, particularly between the roughly 90 percent of Hispanic adolescents who are born in the U.S. (native-born Hispanics) and the 10 percent who are not (foreign-born Hispanics).

This diversity is highlighted in a new research article, published in the June issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. In this article, Child Trends analyzed recent national longitudinal data from young women ages 12-16 who were followed into young adulthood. Our research found that foreign-born Hispanic adolescent girls had more than three times the risk of a teen birth than white girls, while native-born Hispanics had about twice the risk.  While many factors helped account for these differences in teen births, our research highlights the very different family and relationship contexts of Hispanic girls, depending on where they are born. For example:

  • Compared with native-born Hispanics, foreign-born Hispanics were more likely to grow up with both parents in the house, and they tended to have sex for the first time at older ages.  Both of these factors were linked to a lower risk of a teen birth.
  • At the same time, however, foreign-born Hispanics had less educated parents (almost two-thirds did not complete high school), a factor that was linked to a greater risk of teen childbearing.  This difference in parental education reflects, in part, lower levels of schooling in Latin America than in the U.S.
  • Foreign-born Hispanic girls were more likely than native-born Hispanics to be involved in serious romantic relationships (one-quarter were engaged, cohabiting or married to their first sexual partner).  They were also less likely to use contraception (including birth control pills, condoms or other methods to prevent pregnancy).  Both of these factors were linked with an increased risk of a teen birth.

These findings highlight the need to tailor teen pregnancy prevention efforts to meet the diversity of experiences within the Hispanic community.  As a first step in this direction, Child Trends is reviewing teen pregnancy prevention programs that target or include Hispanics (pulled from our What Works database of random-assignment program evaluations):

  • Of the fewer than 20 rigorously evaluated programs that met these criteria, none prevented pregnancy, and only five changed the behaviors that lead to teen pregnancy (delayed sex or increased condom or contraceptive use). These programs are: !Cuidate¡, Familias Unidas, It’s Your Game, Keep it REAL!, Positive Prevention, and Sisters Saving Sisters.
  • Another four had mixed findings; that is, they were effective for either some subset of outcomes or some subset of people (such as for females but not males).

These findings suggest the need to extend the existing evidence base on effective programs to prevent teen and unplanned pregnancy across diverse population of Hispanics.

Authors:

Jennifer Manlove, Ph.D., Co-Director, Reproductive Health & Family Formation

Amanda Berger, Ph.D., Research Scientist

Lizy Wildsmith, Ph.D., Sr. Research Scientist

Reference:

1 Welti, K. (2012). Child Trends’ analysis of National Vital Statistics System birth data. Washington, DC: Child Trends.

 

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