Purpose: To quantify the experience of violence before, during, and after pregnancy among teenage mothers compared to older mothers and to identify the proportion of births to teenagers that result from statutory rape.
Methods: We analyzed data collected during 1991-1994 from the Alaska Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), a population-based, stratified sample survey of 200 of the approximately 900 Alaska resident women each month who have delivered a live infant.
Results: Compared to new mothers at least 20 years of age, mothers < 18 and 18-19 years of age were approximately twice as likely to report having experienced violence during pregnancy (10% vs. 4%) and were two to three times as likely to have experienced violence after pregnancy (10% and 6%, respectively, vs. 3%). When controlling for potentially confounding factors, however, age was associated with the experience of violence only for mothers < 18 years after pregnancy. The percentage of women who reported experiencing violence each week increased following pregnancy for mothers of all ages. At least 38.9% and up to 66.2% of all births to unmarried teenagers younger than 16 years of age resulted from second-degree statutory rape.
Conclusions: Teenage mothers are more likely to experience violence during and after their pregnancy than older women and for women of all ages the risk increases after pregnancy. Nearly half of the births to the youngest teenagers result from second-degree statutory rape.
PIP: Data collected in 1991-94 as part of the Alaska Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System were used to assess the experience of violence before, during, and after pregnancy among teenage mothers compared with older mothers and to identify the proportion of births to teenagers that result from statutory rape. A total of 7178 new mothers 13-45 years of age were included in this population-based data set. 9.7% of mothers under 18 years of age and 9.4% of those 18-19 years old reported having experienced domestic violence during pregnancy compared with 3.8% of mothers at least 20 years of age; violence after pregnancy was reported by 10%, 6%, and 2.9% of mothers, respectively. When potentially confounding factors (marital status, an unplanned pregnancy, enrollment in a medical assistance program) were controlled, however, age was associated with the experience of violence only for mothers under 18 years of age after pregnancy. The percentage of women who reported domestic violence each week increased after pregnancy for mothers of all ages. 66.2% of all births to unmarried teens under 16 years of age for which the age of the father was recorded resulted from second-degree statutory rape. Pediatricians and family practitioners should be aware of the increased risk of violence that occurs after pregnancy, especially in teen mothers. Recommended are violence prevention and intervention programs at school-based clinics, increased public awareness of the extent and consequences of violence against women, and identification of the specific reasons that teenage mothers experience an increased risk of violence.