What Can We Learn about Teen Pregnancy from Rural Adolescents?

Thursday, 15 July 2010: 10:30 AM

Josie (Jo Anne) Weiss, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP
Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, Florida Atlantic University, Port St. Lucie, FL

Learning Objective 1: discuss the perspectives of rural adolescents regarding the prevalence, causes, consequences, and suggestions to prevent rural teen pregnancy.

Learning Objective 2: develop an appreciation of the perspectives of rural teens in understanding the high rates of rural teen pregnancy.

Purpose: Teen pregnancy is an important public health concern often resulting in hardships for teen mothers, infants, communities, and society. Rates of teen pregnancy are higher in rural communities in the Southeastern US. Though much is known about the causes and consequences of teen pregnancy, little is known of rural teen perspectives about teen pregnancy. Students were asked to write practice essays stating whether teen pregnancy was a problem in their community and to explain their answer. The purpose of this research was to analyze these essays to better understand the perspectives of rural adolescents regarding teen pregnancy.

Methods: Essays written by 125 male and female rural 10th grade students were analyzed using simple quantitative measures and the MAX Qualitative Data Analysis program. The data, coded line by line, were compared and contrasted between and among essays to determine relevant themes.

Results: While 62% of the participants believed teen pregnancy was bad or wrong, more than 37% were either ambivalent or felt that teen pregnancy was good or okay.
Relevant themes identified were:
·         Prevalence: noted by 66% of participants.
·         Causes: irresponsibility, accidental, intentional, living in a rural environment
·         Consequences: to teens, infants, parents; most significant consequence: disruption of teens’ education and decreased opportunities for future success
·         Prevention suggestions: either wait to have sex or use protection
·         Other teen pregnancy thoughts: pregnancy is good, timing is not
·         Teen sexual activity: teens are having sex, so pregnancy is likely
Conclusion: The voices of teens living in a rural abstinence-only educational environment should be heard. If consequences are not recognized or appreciated the need for prevention may not be valued. The prevalence of teen pregnancy could suggest an acceptability or normalization of rural teen pregnancy. These findings support the Theory of Adolescent Sexual Decision Making Leading to Teen Pregnancy.