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Opportunity, community, and teen pregnancy in an Appalachian state

Opportunity, community, and teen pregnancy in an Appalachian state

Journal of Educational Research 90(3): 175-181

This study examines female adolescents' responses to opportunities, costs, and community in West Virginia. It is posited that adolescent women's responses to structurally determined contextual factors will be the most important determinant of the teen birth rate. It is posited that girls avoid becoming pregnant and work to stay in school as a wise investment in their future. The variation in males' participation in contributing to teen pregnancy is not considered due to data limitations. West Virginia is a state with low teen abortion rates and limited teen mobility out of state. Community is construed as having a positive sense of affiliation and value for adolescents. Community is measured by school size and a range of 7 measures of community social organization: percentage of urban population in the district, percentage Black, percentage neither Black nor White, level of educational attainment, percentage of college preparatory students, percentage of college students, and percentage of service employees. The 7 factors were reduced with principal component analysis to a measure of modernity. Findings indicate that the birth rate increased by 8% for every increase of 100 students in average school size. The modern variable, which indicates departures from traditional patterns of community organization, was positively, statistically significantly related to the teenage birth rate. The college degree variable was related to increased teen pregnancy as a departure from traditional norms and decreased teen pregnancy as a measure of opportunity. Findings contrast with traditional interpretations of teen pregnancy. Findings indicate that teen pregnancy reflects a lack of opportunity, a decline in traditional community patterns, and the replacement of traditional social relations by shifting labor market relations. Teen births are consequences of disadvantage and disruption as context-driven factors.

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Accession: 046870216

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 12292999

DOI: 10.1080/00220671.1997.10543774

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