Nov. 4, 2003 -- Teenagers who feel alienated from school or their friends may be more likely to become teen parents. But it's not because they don't know about the risks of teen pregnancy.
A new study suggests that despite having adequate knowledge about sexual issues and contraception, teens who dislike school are more likely than those who like school to have sex and expect sexual intercourse before they're 16 years old and expect to become parents by the time they're 20.
Researchers say the findings suggest that teenagers who don't like school may be more likely to view teenage pregnancy as inevitable or a positive alternative to continuing education or a career.
Teen Alienation Raises Pregnancy Risks
Researchers surveyed more than 8,000 13- and 14-year old students in England about their sexual knowledge, attitudes and behavior, and views on school and sex education. The majority of the students in the survey described themselves as white.
The results appear in the November issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
They found that 23% of boys and 15% of girls said they disliked or strongly disliked school and about a quarter of the students were from socioeconomically disadvantaged households. Although only about 7% of the students both disliked school and were socioeconomically disadvantaged, more than 34% fit into one of the two categories.
Researchers found that dislike of school and socioeconomic disadvantage increased the risk of teen pregnancy in different ways.
For example, poorer teens were more likely to have poor knowledge about sex and contraception, have a negative or ambivalent attitude about condom use, believe that their peers were already having sex, and expect to be parents by age 20.
In contrast, the teens who disliked school were more likely to have sexual intercourse, expect to have intercourse by the time they were 16, and expect to become parents by the time they were 20 compared with those who liked school, even though they had comparable knowledge about sexual issues.
"Socially excluded young people may be more likely to become pregnant as teenagers not because of knowledge or confidence deficits but because their alienation from school and more general social exclusion results in their adopting fatalistic or positive attitudes to parenthood in their teenage years," write researcher C.P. Bonell of the University of London, and colleagues.
"For some young people, having a baby may, in this context, represent a positive and achievable goal."