NEW ORLEANS — Higher educational and career goals among adolescent girls are widely considered to be protective against pregnancy, but a recent study suggests that this is true only among those who specifically view pregnancy as an impediment to achieving these goals.
Of 351 racially and ethnically diverse nulliparous teens who completed a questionnaire asking about such factors as educational and career goals, anticipated effects of childbearing on these goals, personal desire to avoid pregnancy, and sexual behavior and contraceptive use, 64% had college aspirations, and 58% planned to pursue a career as well as eventual motherhood, Sara Jumping Eagle, M.D., reported in a poster at the annual meeting of the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.
Most (74%) said their goals were achievable, but only 42% said that pregnancy would interfere with their achievement of those goals. Only those young women who considered pregnancy an obstacle to their goals were significantly more likely to want to remain nonpregnant (77% vs. 27%), had plans to abort if they became pregnant (27% vs. 4%), and had plans to use contraception consistently in the future (90% vs. 79%), according to Dr. Jumping Eagle of the University of Colorado, Denver.
The findings challenge the conventional approach to risk assessment, which assumes “that there are sets of risk and protective factors that differ in quantity between teenagers who do and do not become mothers but [that] exert similar effects on them.” Dr. Jumping Eagle noted.
The conventional approach does not take into account the fact that educational and career goals are not necessarily causally related to avoiding pregnancy, she wrote, concluding that more time within pregnancy prevention intervention programs should be spent not only encouraging such goals, but also teaching that pregnancy is likely to make the achievement of those goals so difficult that the girls would be “willing to overlook the inconveniences associated with using contraception.”