The association of foster care or kinship care with adolescent sexual behavior and first pregnancy

Pediatrics. 2001 Sep;108(3):E46. doi: 10.1542/peds.108.3.e46.


Objective: Each year more than 500 000 children enter out-of-home placement. Few outcome studies of these children specifically address high-risk sexual behavior and adolescent pregnancy. Our study investigated the relationship between living in kinship or foster care and high-risk reproductive behaviors in a nationally representative sample of women.

Methods: Data from 9620 women ages 15 to 44 years in the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth were analyzed in a cross-sectional study. Three groups-foster (n = 89), kinship (n = 513), and comparison (n = 9018)-were identified on the basis of self-reported childhood living situations. Bivariate and multiple linear regression analyses were performed. The outcome variables were age at first sexual intercourse and at first conception and the number of sexual partners.

Results: After adjustment for multiple predictor variables, foster care was associated with younger age at first conception (difference: 11.3 months) and having greater than the median number of sexual partners (odds ratio: 1.7, 1.0-2.8). Kinship care was associated with younger age both at first intercourse (difference = 6 months) and at first conception (difference: 8.6 months) and having greater than the median number of sexual partners (odds ratio: 1.4, 1.1-1.8). There were no differences between the kinship and foster groups.

Conclusions: A history of living in either foster or kinship care is a marker for high-risk sexual behaviors, and the risk is comparable in both out-of-home living arrangements. Recognition of these risks may enable health care providers to intervene with high-risk youth to prevent early initiation of sexual intercourse and early pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Age Distribution
  • Coitus
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Odds Ratio
  • Population Surveillance
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Partners
  • United States