This study examines characteristics of adolescent street youth with histories of pregnancy and documents important factors that merit consideration when providing global sexual health care.
Study objective: To determine social and behavioral factors associated with a history of pregnancy among adolescent street youth.
Design, setting, participants: In a prospective cohort study, female adolescent street youth (14-19 years) ever pregnant (AEP) were compared with adolescents never pregnant (ANP) using data from baseline questionnaires.
Results: Among the 225 participants, 41.8% were ever pregnant. Both groups were similar with respect to age (mean 17.8 years) and other socio-economic characteristics. However, AEP were more likely to have been kicked out of home (62.8% vs. 47.3%, P=0.022) and to have run away (78.7% vs. 64.9%, P=0.025) and were homeless younger (mean age: 13.9 vs. 14.7 years, P=0.011) and since a longer period (mean: 4.0 vs. 3.0 years, P=0.001). Both groups had problematic alcohol and drug use: 31.3% had a CAGE score >2; 72.2% had a DAST score >6. Almost half (44.0%) had ever injected drugs and AEP were younger at initiation into drug injection (15.2 years vs. 16.0 years, P=0.049). More AEP had experienced intra-familial or extra-familial sexual abuse (71.3% vs. 56.5%, P=0.024), and had had more than one abuser (71.6% vs. 50.0%, P=0.009). Among those abused by family members, abuse occurred at an earlier age for AEP (mean age: 7.4 vs. 8.9 years, P=0.090) and more AEP reported severe abuse: vaginal penetration (62.2% vs. 26.7%, P=0.004) and anal penetration (29.7% vs. 3.3%, P=0.005).
Conclusions: Histories of severe sexual abuse and early injection drug use are extremely frequent in ever pregnant street adolescents. These factors need to be addressed when planning global health care and sexual health education.