Which Young Men Are Most Likely to Get Their Partners Pregnant?

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A diverse group of young men.

Clusters of Factors Identify a High Prevalence of Pregnancy Involvement Among U.S. Adolescent Males.” May Lau, Hua Lin and Glenn Flores. Maternal and Child Health Journal, published online February 2015.

What it’s about: Lau, Lin and Flores wanted to know what factors, when examined together, were linked to getting someone pregnant among older teen boys. The researchers used the 2002 and 2006-2010 National Surveys of Family Growth, which measured sexual health practices and attitudes for 7,000 participants ages 15 to 44. In particular, they looked at the answers given by 3,498 young men, ages 15 to 19, to the following question: “Altogether, including pregnancies that ended in miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, and pregnancies that are ongoing, as far as you know, how many times have you made someone pregnant?”

The researchers analyzed the data from the interviews using a technique called "recursive partitioning analysis." They charted the young men's responses in relation to 41 variables identified in the surveys, including age, education, religious practice, work schedule, and history of sexually transmitted infections. The researchers wanted to see which combinations of these factors (“clusters”) were linked to getting someone pregnant among most young men.

Why read it: There is a vast array of studies of factors associated with pregnancy in adolescent girls. But research into factors associated with teen boys’ involvement in a pregnancy is scant. This study seeks to address that research gap.          

Biggest takeaways from the research: Lau, Lin and Flores found that two clustered groups of young men had the highest likelihood of being involved in a pregnancy:

  • Young men who had ever gotten tested for HIV, reported having more than four sexual partners in their lives, were skeptical that sex could be pleasurable with a condom, had not completed the 11th grade, and said they'd had two or fewer sexual partners in the last year. Eighty-seven percent of these young men had gotten someone pregnant.
  • Young men who had ever gotten tested for HIV, said they'd had more than four sexual partners in their lives, were older than 17, were skeptical that sex could be pleasurable with a condom, and had not been educated in the use of contraception until the 10th grade or later. Eighty-four percent of these young men had gotten someone pregnant.

By observing the clustering of certain risk factors and comparing similar groups, the researchers said they could identify factors that seem particularly important.

For example, more than twice as many young men in the second group listed above got someone pregnant as young men who shared four out of the five risk factors. The factor the lower-risk group had that this group did not was learning about contraceptives before 10th grade.

The authors say long-term studies would be a valuable next step to increase our knowledge of the role certain risk factors play in young men's likelihood of getting someone pregnant. In the meantime, the researchers recommend screening young men for a group of seven factors that may indicate they are at high risk of getting someone pregnant:

  • History of being tested for HIV
  • Number of female sexual partners during their lives and in the past year
  • Attitudes toward using condoms
  • Level of education
  • Age
  • Grade in which they first learned about contraceptives
  • Whether they've ever lived apart from their parents

The authors also recommend educating young people about contraception by the 9th grade at the latest and making contraception as accessible as possible.

Additional references: Look for more articles on adolescent pregnancy prevention and factors in NCFY’s research library.

NCFY previously covered efforts to reduce pregnancy risk behaviors in young men, as well as research that interrogated young fathers’ sense of responsibility for their partners’ pregnancies. Past studies of culturally-specific pregnancy prevention programs also looked at specific risk factors for pregnancy. 

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children & Families.

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