RISK: Births to Teenage Mothers

Teenage parenthood is associated with a number of health risks beginning in the prenatal period and extending into childhood. Teen mothers are less likely than older mothers to receive prenatal care and more likely to experience pregnancy complications and deliver low birthweight infants. The children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement and drop out of high school, have more health and behavior problems, give birth as a teenager, and face unemployment as a young adult.

The impact of young maternal age on children’s developmental outcomes is difficult to disentangle from other social determinants of health and development. For example, pregnancy and birth to adolescents are significant contributors to high school dropout rates among girls. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence. Similarly, most teen mothers have to face the increased costs associated with their infant (e.g., food, diapers, child care) with very limited resources. As a result, three fourths of all children of single teenage parents grow up in poverty in the U.S.

Number and Rate of Births per Thousand to Mothers Ages 15-17 Years, Virginia,

SOURCE: Virginia Resident Live Birth Certificate Data compiled by the Office of Family Health Services, Virginia Department of Health.

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