Reading and Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy linked to below average reading levels

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Social inequality has long been linked to higher rates of teen pregnancy, but can anything be specifically targeted to help prevent teen pregnancy?

A recent study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing has found a strong link between low literacy levels and incidences of teen pregnancy.

This study found that girls with a below average reading level were 2.5 times more likely to have a child during their teen years compared with girls with an average reading level.

"Make reading a priority."

At the American Public Heath Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco, Rosemary Frasso, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, presented on the link between low literacy rates and teen pregnancy.

This study builds on previous research linking teen pregnancy with social inequality, but focused on the specific issue of a teen’s ability to read at an average level.

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania linked seventh grade reading among over twelve thousand girls in public schools in Philadelphia to birth records from 1996 to 2002.

As reading level improved, the percentage of girls having children during their teen years decreased significantly. Only twelve percent of girls with an average reading level gave birth to a child during their teens, while only one percent gave birth to more than one child during their teens.

For girls with an above average reading level, five percent had one child and only 0.4 percent had more than one child while in their teenage years.

The study also found that Hispanic and African American girls were at an even higher risk for teen pregnancy in the low literacy group than girls who self-identified as white. Hispanic and African American girls were over-represented in the below-average reading skill group, meaning more of these two races were in this group than was expected.

The researchers pointed out that poor reading skills are difficult to overcome and are predictive of students dropping out of school.

“Our findings underscore the role of literacy as its own social risk factor throughout the life course,” said Dr. Frasso.

The study also suggests that healthcare providers should consider literacy when delivering reproductive health services to young women.

It is important to note that this research was presented at a professional meeting and has not yet been peer reviewed for publishing in any professional journals. No statements of funding or conflicts of interest were made.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 15, 2012
Last Updated:
November 19, 2012