Other Youth Topics

Risk and Protective Factors

Teen pregnancy can result in a number of negative consequences. It is necessary to understand the associated risk and protective factors in order to appropriately implement prevention efforts. Risk factors encourage, or increase, behaviors that increase the likelihood of teen pregnancy, while protective factors decrease these behaviors. These factors can occur in multiple domains, such as individual (teen’s attitude), family (poverty status), and community (available resources).1

Key risk factors include living in poverty, limited maternal educational achievement, and having a mother who gave birth before the age of 20.2 Additional risk factors include being from a single-parent home, living in a home with frequent family conflict, early sexual activity, early use of alcohol and drugs, and low self-esteem.3 Lastly, a teen’s race and ethnicity can be a risk factor for teen pregnancy.

Some protective factors include open communication with parents and/or adults about accurate contraception use, parental support and healthy family dynamics, and peer use of condoms. Protective factors also include positive attitudes towards condom use, intent to abstain from sex or limit one’s number of partners, and accurate knowledge of sexual health, HIV infection, sexually transmitted infections, the importance of abstinence, and pregnancy. 4

Identifying these factors is important because it can help effectively guide teen pregnancy prevention program planning and implementation by focusing on the specific and varied needs of the youth in the community. Learn more about teen pregnancy prevention efforts being supported by the federal government.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Overview of Contraception
This web page from the CDC goes over the different types of contraception that are available, how they work, and the effectiveness of each method.

GirlsHealth.gov: Overview of Birth Control
This web page from GirlsHealth.gov gives an overview of possible questions young women may have regarding birth control and birth control options. It also links to an overview of types of birth control.

1 Washington State Health Department, 2007
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health, 2011
3 CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health, 2011; Kirby, Lepore, & Ryan, 2005
4 CDC, 2011c; Martinez, Copen, & Abma, 2011