Girls who date gang members are twice as likely to become pregnant as compared to those not seeing boys involved with gangs, according to a new study.
Researchers at RTI International, the University of California San Francisco and the University of North Carolina, have cited in a new study that teenage girls whose boyfriends are gang members are nearly twice as likely to become pregnant as those who are not involved with boys not part of a gang.
The researchers in the study focussed on 237 sexually active females between the age group of 14 to 19 years, mainly belonging to Latino neighborhoods in San Francisco and examined the relationship between gang exposure and pregnancy for a two-year period between 2001 and 2004.
"The significant role of partner's gang membership in increasing pregnancy risk highlights the importance of addressing the reproductive health needs of gang-involved youth. Our findings suggest that focusing on pregnancy intentions, including those of male partners, remains an important area for intervention," said Alexandra Minnis, Ph.D. epidemiologist at RTI.
The results indicated that girls' gang membership had no effect on her pregnancy risk, but girls having boyfriends with gang-affiliations were twice as likely to become pregnant as their peers. Also, those girls, whose boyfriends spent time in jail were also more likely to become pregnant.
At the time of the study, more than one-fourth (27.4 percent) of the participants became pregnant and the researchers observed that pregnancy intentions, particularly those of male partners, was a significant factor in the incidence of pregnancies.
It was suggested that gang involved youth may be under increased perceived social pressures to have a baby, and the belief that pregnancy strengthens the commitment between couples or influences the status of females within a relationship are strong with gang-involved couples.
The researchers also said that women with gang-involved partners may feel less power to negotiate condom use.
"The elevated risk for pregnancy in this population of sexually active females also points to the accompanying risks for sexually transmitted infections. Integrated reproductive health prevention, therefore, is critical," said Minnis.
The study is published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.