Context: Adolescent pregnancy occurs in all societies, but the level of teenage pregnancy and childbearing varies from country to country. A cross-country analysis of birth and abortion measures is valuable for understanding trends, for identifying countries that are exceptional and for seeing where further in-depth studies are needed to understand observed patterns.
Methods: Birth, abortion and population data were obtained from various sources, such as national vital statistics reports, official statistics, published national and international sources, and government statistical offices. Trend data on adolescent birthrates were compiled for 46 countries over the period 1970-1995. Abortion rates for a recent year were available for 33 of the 46 countries, and data on trends in abortion rates could be gathered for 25 of the 46 countries.
Results: The level of adolescent pregnancy varies by a factor of almost 10 across the developed countries, from a very low rate in the Netherlands (12 pregnancies per 1,000 adolescents per year) to an extremely high rate in the Russian Federation (more than 100 per 1,000). Japan and most western European countries have very low or low pregnancy rates (under 40 per 1,000); moderate rates (40-69 per 1,000) occur in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and a number of European countries. A group of five countries--Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, the Russian Federation and the United States--have pregnancy rates of 70 or more per 1,000. The adolescent birthrate has declined in the majority of industrialized countries over the past 25 years, and in some cases has been more than halved. Similarly, pregnancy rates in 12 of the 18 countries with accurate abortion reporting showed declines. Decreases in the adolescent abortion rate, however, were less prevalent.
Conclusions: The trend toward lower adolescent birthrates and pregnancy rates over the past 25 years is widespread and is occurring across the industrialized world, suggesting that the reasons for this general trend are broader than factors limited to any one country: increased importance of education, increased motivation of young people to achieve higher levels of education and training, and greater centrality of goals other than motherhood and family formation for young women.
PIP: This article examines levels of adolescent childbearing, abortion and pregnancy in developed countries in the mid-1990s, as well as trends over recent decades. Birth, abortion and population data from national vital statistics reports, official statistics, published national and international sources, and government statistical offices were analyzed. Analysis results show that level of adolescent pregnancy varies by a factor of almost 10 across developed countries, from a very low rate in the Netherlands to an extremely high rate in the Russian Federation. A pattern of decline in the adolescent birth rate in industrialized countries over the past 25 years was well documented. Part of the overall decline in childbearing across industrialized countries is the general trend of declining teenage fertility. In addition, a decline in abortion rates has been reported, although little information is available on trends in adolescent abortion specifically. The general trend reflects the increased importance of achieving higher levels of education and training, and greater centrality of goals other than motherhood and family formation for young women. However, a number of factors are likely to have had a greater impact on teenagers.