Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents
Child and adolescent psychiatrists strive to provide effective and safe treatment to children, incorporating evidence-based practices and patient-centered care, while recognizing the need to reduce costs associated with care delivery.
Although rates of adolescent pregnancy and childbearing in the United States have been consistently decreasing since 2009, they remain higher than in other industrialized nations. Pregnant and parenting adolescents are at higher risk for school drop-out, lower educational/vocational attainment, repeat pregnancies, violence, living in poverty, mental health issues, and needing government assistance. Children of adolescent mothers are at increased risk for experiencing abuse/neglect, being raised by a single parent, being in foster care, living in poverty, lower school achievement, eventual school drop-out, being incarcerated as adolescents, becoming pregnant as adolescents, and being unemployed as adults.
Compared to Caucasian adolescents, there is a higher rate of birth among black and Hispanic adolescents. Lower education and income levels of an adolescent’s family can contribute to higher adolescent birth rates. Female adolescents in foster care are at double the risk of becoming pregnant than adolescents not in foster care. A recent study also found lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were more likely to become pregnant or impregnate someone
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends:
- Screening pregnant/parenting adolescents (alone and with guardians if available) for:
- Physical, sexual, emotional abuse/domestic violence to assess for safety;
- Mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use;
- Availability of family and other social supports; and
- Access to physical and mental health care.
- Continued support of school-based health centers, where many of these pregnant and parenting teens are able to access care and contraception to prevent repeat pregnancy. Resources should include information on housing, health care, and social services as necessary.
- Support of home-visiting programs, embedded programs in medical homes, and community outreach programs, which can improve parental understanding and care of their children, encourage completion of secondary education and further educational advancement, engage adolescent parents in couples counseling, and help with vocational training.
- Increased services and outreach to black, Hispanic, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, as well as those in the child welfare system.