The Adverse Effects of Teen Pregnancy

The high social and economic costs of teen pregnancy and child­bearing can have short- and long-term negative consequences for teen parents, their children, and their community. Through recent research, it has been recognized that pregnancy and childbirth have a significant impact on educational outcomes of teen parents.

  • By age 22, only around 50 percent of teen mothers have received a high school diploma and only 30 percent have earned a General Education Development (GED) certificate, whereas 90 percent of women who did not give birth during adolescence receive a high school diploma.1
  • Only about 10 percent of teen mothers complete a two- or four-year college program.2
  • Teen fathers have a 25 to 30 percent lower probability of graduating from high school than teenage boys who are not fathers.3

Children who are born to teen mothers also experience a wide range of problems. For example, they are more likely to:

  • have a higher risk for low birth weight and infant mortality;
  • have lower levels of emotional support and cognitive stimulation;
  • have fewer skills and be less prepared to learn when they enter kindergarten;
  • have behavioral problems and chronic medical conditions;
  • rely more heavily on publicly funded health care;
  • have higher rates of foster care placement;
  • be incarcerated at some time during adolescence;
  • have lower school achievement and drop out of high school;
  • give birth as a teen; and
  • be unemployed or underemployed as a young adult.4

These immediate and long-lasting effects continue for teen parents and their children even after adjusting for the factors that increased the teen’s risk for pregnancy—e.g., growing up in poverty, having parents with low levels of education, growing up in a single-parent family, and having low attachment to and performance in school.5

Teen pregnancy costs U.S. taxpayers about $11 billion per year due to increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers.6 Some recent cost studies estimate that the cost may be as high as $28 billion per year or an average of $5,500 for each teen parent. The majority of this cost is associated with teens who give birth before age 18.7

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2011; Hoffman & Maynard, 2008
2 Hoffman & Maynard, 2008
3 Covington, Peters, Sabia, & Price, 2011; Fletcher & Wolfe, 2012
4 CDC, 2011c; Hoffman & Maynard, 2008
5 CDC, 2011b
6 National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2011
7 Hoffman & Maynard, 2008

Youth Briefs

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Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

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Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).