Association Between Abuse History and Adolescent Pregnancy: A Meta-analysis



      Although a purported risk factor for early pregnancy is abuse history, the strength of this association has been inconsistent across studies and may vary as a function of abuse type. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to examine the extent to which sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, as well as neglect, increased the risk of adolescent pregnancy.


      A search of studies through MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Social Work Abstracts, and Web of Science was conducted. Studies were retained if they included (1) women who became pregnant before 20 years of age; (2) a comparison group of nonpregnant adolescents; and (3) abuse experience (<18 years of age).


      Thirty-eight independent samples provided 70 estimates of effect sizes, derived from 75,390 participants. Both sexual and physical abuse were associated with an increased risk of adolescent pregnancy (odds ratio [OR], 2.06; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.75–2.38 and OR, 1.48; CI, 1.24–1.76, respectively). The strongest effect was for the co-occurrence of sexual and physical abuse (OR, 3.83; CI, 2.96–4.97]). Nonsignificant effect sizes were found for emotional abuse (OR, 1.01; CI, .70–1.47) and neglect (OR, 1.29; CI, .77–2.17]), although these were moderated by journal impact factor, that is, greater effect sizes were reported in higher impact journals.


      The results of this meta-analysis reveal that the strength of the association between abuse and adolescent pregnancy varies as a function of abuse subtype. Sexual and physical abuse were associated with increased risk for adolescent pregnancy, whereas emotional abuse and neglect were not.


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