Girls with Below-Average Reading Skills More Likely to Become Teen Moms, Says New Study

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Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently released a new study that examines the links between literacy and teen pregnancy, finding that girls with poorer reading skills may be more likely to have children as teens than their more literate peers.

The study - released at the American Public Health Association’s 140th annual meeting last month and scheduled to be published in the journal Contraception this February - evaluated more than 12,000 Philadelphia public school students, a majority of them pre-teens in the 7th grade, with researchers re-analyzing the students later when they were older teens.

Researchers found that girls in the 7th grade, whose reading skills were assessed as below-average, were about 2.5 times likelier to give birth as teens than students that had demonstrated literacy skills that were average or better. 

In assessing the pre-teen population with poorer reading skills, researchers concluded that 21 percent had given birth to at least one child during their teenage years, while only five percent of those that had posted average reading skills had given birth as teens. Hispanic and African-American students were more likely to display reading skill deficiencies as pre-teens, with researchers stating that the “effect of low literacy risk on risk of teenage parenting” was much stronger for those populations than students that self-identified as Caucasian. 

In a press release issued by the American Public Health Association, University of Pennsylvania researcher Rosemary Frasso said the findings “underscore the role of literacy as its own social risk factor” regarding the development and lifestyle choices of adolescents.

“It is quite possible that adolescent girls who experience a daily sense of rejection in the classroom might feel as though they have little chance of achievement later on in life,” she said.