Seeing Beyond the Immediate: Appreciating How Rural Teens Avoid Pregnancy

Thursday, 16 July 2009: 8:30 AM

Josie Weiss, PhD
Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University, Port St. Lucie, FL

Learning Objective 1: Describe environmental factors which promote risky behaviors in rural adolescents which lead to teen pregnancy.

Learning Objective 2: Identify components of the Theory of Low Risk Adolescent Sexual Decision-Making as a means of assisting youth avoid teen pregnancy.

After many years of steady decline, the rates of teen pregnancy in the United States have once again begun to climb. Teen pregnancy rates are higher in the Southeastern US, especially in rural communities.

Purpose: The purpose of this presentation is to share research findings from a grounded theory study. The purpose of the research was to explain how rural adolescent females thought about teen pregnancy and how these thoughts influenced their choices about sexual activity. The target audience for this presentation is all persons interested in promoting safe sexual decision-making as a means of unwanted decreasing pregnancy in vulnerable adolescents.

Methods: Data were collected through individual interviews with 20 students attending the ninth grade in a rural south Florida community. Though not intentional, the students who chose to participate in this research were “low risk” females. Grounded theory methods were used, including concurrent data collection and analysis using constant comparison, coding and memoing until saturation occurred and the theory generated.

Results: These low risk rural adolescents lived in risk-promoting environments and as they matured, they developed opinions about sexual issues. In response, they saw beyond the immediate appeal their environments seemed to offer and avoided exposure to risky choices. A component of seeing beyond the immediate was appreciating positive input from others. In order to see beyond the immediate, these participants owned the consequences of their choices, believed in themselves, and planned for future success. They also had adults in their lives who encouraged them.

Conclusion: Recognizing the risk-promoting environments in which teens live and helping them see beyond the immediate appeal these environments seem to offer is important. Encouraging teens to appreciate the consequences of their choices, believe in themselves and plan for future success could be effective ways to decrease rural teen pregnancy.