Personality and adolescent pregnancy outcomes

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Abstract

Aims.

To examine the relationship between personality, pregnancy and birth outcomes in adolescents.

Background.

Personality has been shown to be a strong predictor of many health outcomes. Adolescents who become pregnant have worse birth outcomes than adults.

Design.

Cross-sectional study using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (baseline, 1994–1995; follow-up, 2007–2008).

Methods.

The study sample was 6529 girls, 820 of whom reported on pregnancy outcomes for a teenage birth. Personality data were taken from the Mini International Personality Item Pool personality tool, which measures the five-factor personality traits of neuroticism, conscientiousness, intellect/imagination, extraversion and agreeableness. Logistic regression was used to predict teen pregnancy and linear regression was used to predict birth weight and gestational age with adjustment for confounders and stratification by race.

Results.

Agreeableness and intellect/imagination were associated with a reduced likelihood of becoming pregnant as an adolescent, while neuroticism, conscientiousness and extraversion were all associated with an increased likelihood of becoming pregnant. Higher neuroticism was associated with lower birth weight and gestational age among Black girls, but not non-Black. Conscientiousness was associated with lower gestational age among non-Black girls. No relationships were found with extraversion or agreeableness and birth outcomes. Receiving late or no prenatal care was associated with higher intellect/imagination.

Conclusions.

Personality is understudied with respect to pregnancy and birth outcomes compared with other health outcomes. Such research could help professionals and clinicians design and target programmes that best fit the characteristics of the population most likely to need them, such as those with high neuroticism.

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