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Reproductive Coercion Common Among Teens

December 4th, 2019

Reproductive coercion—a form of relationship abuse that includes pressuring a partner to become pregnant when they do not want to be or interfering with contraception use by damaging condoms or through other means—is a common problem among teenage girls seeking care at high school health centers, according to a study led by University of Pittsburgh researchers. Reproductive coercion can lead to poor health outcomes, such as unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

Researchers analyzed the data of 550 sexually active female teens ages 14 to 19 from a previously conducted randomized trial at eight school-based health centers in California during the 2012-2013 school year. Across all racial groups, approximately 1 in 8 sexually active high school girls had experienced reproductive coercion within the last three months, and about 1 in 6 reported physical or sexual abuse in a relationship in the past 3 months. Assessing differences by race, the researchers showed that 15 percent of Latina and Black girls experienced reproductive coercion, compared to 4 percent of white girls, similar to earlier studies among adult women. 

According to the authors, the study results demonstrate an “urgent need for developmentally appropriate interventions” involving education, resources, and harm-reduction counseling for all adolescents and young women. “Young women and teens experience relationship abuse at alarming rates,” said study co-author Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., “In fact, the CDC estimates about 1 in 5 high school girls have experienced physical or sexual dating abuse in the past year.”

Learn more about Adolescent/Teen Health study opportunities at Pitt+Me.