Fertility and pregnancy

Teenage pregnancy contagious

teenage pregnancy Can run in families, study finds

Having an elder pregnant teenage sister increases the chance of a younger sibling becoming pregnant, from around one in five to two in five, researchers have found.

This 'peer effect' was found to be stronger if the sisters were of a similar age, but wore off as the age gap between sisters widened.

The effect was also greater for sisters in low-income households.

Researchers reached their conclusion after analysing census records from more than 42,000 Norwegian women born after the Second World War.

The study showed the chance of a teenage pregnancy was lower in those who had been educated to a higher level, but this was not enough to counteract the effect of a pregnant sister.

Previous research has shown that family background and time spent in education can lower the chance of a teenager becoming pregnant, but none had investigated the influence of having a pregnant teenage sister.

Professor Carol Propper said: "These findings reveal the positive sibling effect still dwarfs the negative effect of education.

"These findings provide strong evidence that the contagious effect of teen motherhood in siblings is larger than the general effect of being better educated.

"This suggests that more policies aimed directly at decreasing teenage pregnancy may be needed in order to reduce teen births."

The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, was carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol, Imperial College London, University of Bergen and the Norwegian School of Economics.

This article was published on Tue 9 August 2011

Image © yurmary - Fotolia.com

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