The number has since leveled off to about 42 births per 1,000 teens.
The study, which looks at trends in birth rates from 1981 through 2006 among teen mothers by age and ethnic background, appears online in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Authors led by Phyllis Wingo, Ph.D., found that this leveling off started in 2003, for all but two study groups. The exceptions were 18- to 19-year-old white and Asian teens, which were still registering declines, and Hispanic teens, which showed increases.
The study reveals that, between 1981 and 2003, teen birth rates decreased significantly for all age, race and Hispanic-origin groups. Overall, teen mothers were slightly older than before and had a slightly higher level of education. Decreased percentages of young mothers were married, and there was a drop in African-American teen mothers and a drop in teen mothers with two or more children.
While the authors attribute the decline to delayed experimentation with sex and increased use of contraception, they also suggest that abortion might not be a factor: abortion rates and birth rates both declined in this period according to the limited data available.
Patricia Paluzzi, president of the Healthy Teen Network, said that the study provides a helpful level of detail as different approaches and programs target different age and racial or ethnic groups.
"The study authors are on the right track, supporting innovative, multi-component, community-wide initiatives to reduce teen pregnancies and births in communities with the highest rates," Paluzzi said. "Given the findings in this study, this comprehensive approach is needed to continue delaying births among teens."
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