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Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Oct;154(10):1405-11.

Social consequences of psychiatric disorders, II: Teenage parenthood.

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Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115-5899, USA.



The subject of this study was the relation between retrospectively reported early-onset psychiatric disorders and subsequent teenage parenthood in the general population.


The data were from 5,877 respondents aged 15-54 years in the National Comorbidity Survey, a nationally representative household survey. Information on respondents' DSM-III-R anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance abuse disorders, and conduct disorder, age at the birth of the first child, and teenage sexual activity was collected in face-to-face interviews.


Early-onset psychiatric disorders were associated with subsequent teenage parenthood among both females and males, with significant odds ratios of 2.0-12.0 and population attributable risk proportions of 6.2%-33.7%. Disaggregation analyses showed that disorders were associated with increased probability of sexual activity but not with decreased probability of using contraception.


These results add to a growing body of evidence that psychiatric disorders are associated with a variety of adverse life consequences. The current policy debate concerning universal insurance coverage needs to take this into consideration. Planners of interventions aimed at preventing teenage pregnancy should consider including a mental health treatment component in their intervention packages. Mental health professionals treating adolescents need to be sensitized to their higher risk of pregnancy, while family doctors and specialists treating teenage mothers or their children need to be sensitized to the mothers' higher risk of psychiatric disorder.


Data from the US National Comorbidity Survey on 5877 respondents 15-54 years of age were used to assess the relationship between retrospectively identified early-onset psychiatric disorders and subsequent adolescent parenthood. Between 21-24% of the sample's male and female age cohorts reported having their first child at ages 15-19 years. The cumulative and conditional probability curves for adolescent parenthood were consistently higher among men and women with prior psychiatric diagnoses of anxiety, affective, addictive, and conduct disorders than among those without psychiatric diagnoses. The diagnosis most predictive of adolescent parenthood was addictive disorders. The population attributable risk proportions of births of first children to teenagers associated with the psychiatric disorders were 11.1% in the teenage female subsample with premarital childbearing, 6.2% in the teenage female subsample with marital childbearing, and 33.7% in the teenage male subsample with premarital parenthood. Physicians and mental health professionals who work with adolescents with psychiatric conditions should be aware of the increased risk of adolescent pregnancy and a mental health component should be added to adolescent pregnancy prevention programs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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