Regional patterns of teenage births in relation to social factors and educational and social outcomes for young women following a teenage birth

Gillian Raab, St. Andrews University, Marion Henderson, Medical Research Council and Lin Hattersley, General Register Office Scotland

[Project number 30094]

This study has two main purposes:

1. To compare teenage birth rates between regions in England and Wales, and eventually to compare these with Scottish rates (see below). The comparisons will be for simple, age-specific, birth rates and also for birth rates adjusted for social factors and other determinants of pregnancy at these ages.
2. To describe how educational, economic activity and living conditions of young women who have experienced a birth during their teenage years differ from those who have not done so. Results will be presented both as simple summaries and from the results of models that adjust for background variables.

There have been two previous studies that have used the LS to investigate factors affecting teenage pregnancy and births. Rosato (1999) used data from young women present in the 1971 and 1981 censuses to investigate socio-economic factors influencing teenage births. He found some evidence of a strengthening of the effect of predictors (particularly housing tenure and the age of the LS member's mother at the member's birth) between these two decades. Sloggett and Joshi (1998) used teenage pregnancy rates for young women in the LS present at the 1981 census. Their focus was on investigating contextual effects of deprivation indicators on a range of outcomes where teenage pregnancy was one of eight outcomes.

Abortion rates have increased over the period 1970 to the present (Lee et al 2004, ONS, 2003) and (e.g. Smith 1993) the proportion of conceptions that end in abortion is much higher for socially advantaged groups (e.g. Smith 1993, Henderson et al 2006). Thus an increase in the abortion rate may have the potential to strengthen the association of teenage motherhood and deprivation. Thus a further analysis based on young women present at the 1991 census will be of interest.

There are strong regional differences in teenage pregnancy rates. We will investigate if they can be explained by individual socio-economic factors and make comparisons with Scottish data from the SLS.

Most of the analyses we plan will use the cohort of women present in 1991. But using data from the cohort members also traced at 2001 will enable several additional analyses to be carried out.

  • Those relating to our second aim. One of the aims of the current Teenage Pregnancy strategy for England and Wales is to, " teenage parents into education, training or employment and to reduce their risk of social exclusion" (Wellings et al, 2005). This analysis will be able to address this question directly and look at factors that influence these outcomes.
  • A check on the completeness of linkage to birth records by identifying children living with LS members at 2001 for whom no birth record was obtained.
  • Some comparisons of teenage pregnancy rates in relation to the new question on religion which was asked in 2001. This will be of limited interest in E&W but more relevant in Scotland, but we include it since it is known that religiosity is important factor in explaining variations in sexual activity and contraceptive usage among adolescents (Henderson et al 2003; Hollander 2003; Studer and Thornton 1987). Thornton and Camburn argued that teenagers' religious participation does effect their sexuality, but sexual behaviour and attitudes significantly influence religious involvement (Thornton and Camburn 1989).

M Henderson, D Wight, G M Raab, C Abraham, A Parkes, S Scott, G Hart (2006) Impact of a theoretically based sex education programme (SHARE) delivered by teachers on NHS registered conceptions and terminations: final results of cluster randomised trial, British Medical Journal, to appear in print shortly. Published online at
Henderson, M., Wight, D., Raab, G.M., Abraham, C., Buston, K., Hart. G., and Scott, S. (2002) 'Heterosexual risk behaviour among young teenagers in Scotland.' Journal of Adolescence. 25, pp.483-94.
Hollander, D. 2003. "Teenage women who are devoted to their religion have reduced sexual risk." Perspectives on sexual and reproductive health 35: 107 - 108.
Lee, E, S Clements, R Ingham, and N Stone. 2004. "A matter of choice? Explaining national variation in teenage abortion and motherhood," Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Office of National Statistics, 2003, Supplements to Series FM1 no. 33, Conception statistics, available from
Rosato M 1999, Teenage fertility in England and Wales: trends in socio-economic circumstances in England and Wales between the 1971 and 1981 censuses, LS working paper no 78.
Sloggett, A and H Joshi. 1998. "Deprivation indicators as predictors of life events, 1981-1992 based on the ONS LS." Journal of epidemiology and community health 52: 228 - 233.
Smith, T. 1993. "Influence of socio-economic factors on attaining targets for reducing teenage pregnancies." British medical journal 306: 1232 - 1235.
Studer, M and A Thornton. 1987. "Adolescent religiosity and contraceptive usage." Journal of marriage and the family 49: 117 - 128.
Wellings K, Wilkinson P et al 2005, Teenage pregancy startegy evaluation, Final Synthesis report, Department of Health, London available from Teenage Pregnancy Unit web site.

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