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Teen Pregnancy and Parenting in California


Although birth rates to teen mothers have decreased, teen pregnancy and parenting continues to be a significant social problem in California. Key data listed are from the following recently released documents:

Demographics

The San Joaquin Valley has the highest teen birth rates (69 per 1000 females ages 15-19 of any region in California - over twice the rate of the San Francisco Bay Area. (Public Policy Institute of California, p. 11)

Tulare and Kings Counties have the highest birth rates to teen mothers. (Public Policy Institute of California, p. 11)

Two of every three babies born to teens in California are born to Latinas. (Public Policy Institute of California, p. 9)

California's birth rates to teens are between 4 and 12 times higher than are the rates for France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Japan. In 2001, more than 53,000 teens - nearly 5% of all teens aged 15 to 19 - gave birth in California, and many more became pregnant. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p. 1)

The California Department of Finance conservatively projects a 23% increase in annual teen births in California within 5 years resulting in approximately 12,500 more California teen births in 2008 than there were in 2001. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, p.13)

In 1999, approximately 25% of ninth grade students reported ever having had sex at least once on the California Youth Risk Behavior Survey, compared with more than 58% of twelfth grade students. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 7)

California ranks first in the number of pregnancy among adolescents. In 1996, there were an estimated 126,300 pregnancies among California teens. Approximately 61% of these pregnancies were to females ages 18 to 19, and 39% to females between the ages of 15 and 17. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., pp 8-9).

Teen Mothers

In 2001, 53,776 births were to teen mothers. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 4)

Poor and low-income teens—who make up approximately 40% of the adolescent population - account for 83% of teens who give birth and 85% of those who become an unmarried parent. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 10)

An estimated 50% to 60% of parenting teens have been sexually abused, a figure twice the national rate for never-pregnant teens. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 16)

In 2000, 78% of all teen mothers in California had never been married, compared to 45% in 1980. (Public Policy Institute of California, p. 4)

Adolescents who become mothers tend to exhibit poorer psychological functioning, lower levels of educational attainment and high school completion, more single parenthood, and less stable employment than those with similar background who postpone childbirth. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p. 2)

70% of teen mothers drop out of high school, making pregnancy the primary reason young women drop out early. Only 30% of teen mothers complete high school by age 30, compared to 76% of women who delay parenthood until age 21 or older. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 24)

Although teen mothers who stay in school are just as likely to graduate as non-mothers, those who drop out before or shortly after childbirth are only half as likely to return to school and graduate as are non-mother dropouts. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p.2)

Teen mothers spend more of their parenting years as single mothers than do older mothers, and they have higher divorce rates. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p. 3)

Teen mothers tend to experience more pregnancy-related problems and have less healthy infants. These differences overall are small, are decreasing over time, and are highly related to access to and use of prenatal care. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p. 3)

Pregnant teens are most likely to smoke during pregnancy. Unlike other age groups, their smoking rates have increased over the last five years. Smoking among pregnant and parenting teens appears to be highly related to pregnancy and early parenting related stress, and it is especially resistant to successful cessation. Even teen mothers who successfully quit smoking during pregnancy tend to relapse immediately or shortly after birth. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p. 3)

Although the majority of welfare recipients began their families as teen mothers, only 5% of mothers receiving public assistance are teens, and just 1% are under age 18. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 25)

Teen marriages are twice as likely to end in divorce as marriages in which the woman is at least 25 years old. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 23)

A second pregnancy is more likely for teens living apart from their parents, being below grade level, having dropped out of school, or growing up in a disadvantaged neighborhood where early parenting gives adult status rather than lost opportunity. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 23)

Fathers of Children Born to Teen Mothers

Fathers of children born to teens are on average almost four years older than the mothers, and a majority is over the age of 21. (Public Policy Institute of California, p. 5)

Fathers to children of teen mothers, whether teenaged or older themselves, tend to start with low educational attainment and low incomes, and to live in low-income communities. As a result of early parenthood, these fathers are likely to work and earn more initially, but they tend to achieve less education and lower earnings over time than their non-parenting peers, most likely due to the early focus on working at the expense of education. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p. 4)

Nearly 80% of fathers of children born to teen mothers do not marry the mothers, up from 15% in 1960. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 23)

Only one out of five teen mothers receive any financial support from their child's father. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., pp. 25-26)

In 1997, one of every four children born to a teen mother had a father who met one of three criminal categories for statutory rape. (Public Policy Institute of California, p. 5)

Children Born to Teen Mothers

Preschool children of teen mothers tend to show some delay of cognitive development as well as more behavior problems and more aggressive behavior than children of older mothers, while adolescent children of teen mothers experience high rates of grade failure, delinquency, and early sexual activity. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p. 3)

Children of parents with low educational attainment, occupation, and income are more likely to have sex at an early age, not use contraception consistently, and become pregnant or cause a pregnancy. (Berglas, N., Brindis, C., and Cohen, J., p. 17)

Costs

In year 2000 dollars, the annual taxpayer cost for each birth to a school-age mother (age 17 years or younger) is $3,108 per year, and the average cost associated with each birth to teen mothers ages 15-19 years is $2,129. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., pp. 4-5)

In year 2000 dollars, the annual societal costs for each birth to teen mothers ages15-19 years are estimated to be $4, 750 per year. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p. 5)

The current annual net costs to taxpayers of births to teen mothers in California are estimated to be $1.7 billion, and current annual total net costs to society run $3.8 billion. (Constantine, N., and Nevarez, C., p. 3) May 2008 update.

Questions: Nancy Christophel | nchristo@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0541 
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