Early Onset Psychopathology and the Risk for Teenage Pregnancy among Clinically Referred Girls

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Abstract

Objective:

To investigate whether early onset DSM-III depressive and conduct disorders and historical/familial variables increased the risk of teenage pregnancy among clinically referred girls, whose referral was unrelated to their reproductive status.

Method:

The sample of 83 girls, 8 to 13 years old at study entry, were participating in a longitudinal investigation of childhood-onset psychiatric disorders. They were repeatedly evaluated during an interval of up to 12 years.

Results:

Twenty-nine girls had at least one pregnancy, and 25 had their first pregnancies as teenagers (≤ 18 years old). Several variables that predicted earlier age at first pregnancy in longitudinal univariate analyses became nonsignificant in the multivariate model. In the final model, childhood or adolescent onset conduct disorders (but not depressive disorders), and race were significantly associated with teenage pregnancy. Among the girls with conduct disorders, 54.8% became pregnant teenagers versus 12% of the rest, and 56% of the black adolescents versus 12% of the rest, had teenage pregnancies.

Conclusions:

After adjusting for race, early onset conduct disorder represents a risk factor for teenage pregnancy among psychiatrically referred girls. The mechanisms may entail behavioral dysregulation, delay in social-cognitive development, and misinformation about reproductive issues. Such girls may benefit from therapeutic and educational interventions to delay childbearing.

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