Context: Past research has revealed that having a sister who gave birth as a teenager is associated with increases in young people's likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behavior. To date, however, no study has determined if having several sisters who were adolescent mothers further raises youths' chances of engaging in risky activities.
Methods: Data were collected from 1,510 predominantly Hispanic and black 11-17-year-olds in a California program for youths who have at least one pregnant or parenting sister. Correlational analyses, analyses of variance and regression analyses were conducted to assess the effects of having multiple teenage parenting sisters on a variety of outcomes that are known risk factors for teenage pregnancy
Results: Twenty-four percent of participants had two or more sisters who had given birth as teenagers. The likelihood of having multiple adolescent parenting sisters was greatest in large families, but was unrelated to youths' other background characteristics. In analyses controlling for background factors, females with many parenting sisters had increased levels of behavioral problems (school problems, drug or alcohol use, and delinquent behavior) and an elevated likelihood of being sexually experienced. Having lived with two or more parenting sisters (as opposed to having lived with only one) was related to more permissive sexual and childbearing attitudes among young women and to earlier first intercourse among young men. Males with a sister who gave birth at a young age had elevated levels of delinquent behavior and promiscuous sexual behavior.
Conclusions: As the number of teenage parenting sisters rises, youths'--particularly females'--risk of pregnancy involvement increases beyond the level associated with having only one teenage parenting sister. Screening for the number, living situation and age at first birth of parenting sisters is likely to be useful for programs seeking to identify youths at high risk of an early pregnancy.