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Repeat Teen Births

Kristin Anderson Moore, Ph.D.
Jennifer Manlove, Ph.D.
Lauren Connon, B.A.
Child Trends, Inc.

March 6, 1998

  • Young women age 19 or younger had 505,513 births in 1996, slightly more than half a million births. As one would expect, the majority of births to teens are first births: in fact, 78.6 percent of all births to teens are first births. However, another 17.8 percent are second births, and 3.6 percent of all births to teens are third or higher order births. (See Figure 1).
  • Source: Ventura, S.J., Peters, K.D., Martin, J.A., & Maurer, J.D. (1997) Births and Deaths in the United States, 1996. Monthly Vital Statistics Report, 46(1), supp. 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. (2,795 cases did not state parity and were removed when percentages were calculated).

  • This translates into a large number of repeat births. Of the 505,513 births to teens in 1996, 394,925 were first births, 89,667 were second births and another 18,126 were third or higher order births. Thus, 107,793 of the half million births to teens were repeat births. (See Figure 2).
  • Source: Ventura, S.J., Peters, K.D., Martin, J.A., & Maurer, J.D. (1997). Births and Deaths in the United States, 1996 Monthly Vital Statistics Report, 46(1), supp. 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

  • Not surprisingly, the percentage of births to teens that are repeat births is higher for older teens. Among births to teens aged 18-19, more than a quarter (27.3%) were repeat births. Even among adolescents aged 15-17, though, 12.1 percent are having repeat births. Remarkably, among teens 15 and younger who give births, 2.5 percent are having repeat births. It should be noted that only 11,242 teens 15 or younger gave birth in 1996, so the number of repeat births at these ages is small, but over the teen years the numbers build up. (See Figure 3).
  • Source: Ventura, S.J., Peters, K.D., Martin, J.A., & Maurer, J.D. (1980-97). Advance report of final natality statistics, [various years] Monthly Vital Statistics Report. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

  • The occurrence of repeat births during the teen years is not a new phenomenon. As Figure 4 shows, the rate of second births has remained approximately the same since 1980, increasing during the years when the first birth rate rose and declining somewhat in recent years as the first birth rate declined. (See Figure 4).
  • Source: Ventura, S.J., Peters, K.D., Martin, J.A., & Maurer, J.D. (1980-97). Advance report of final natality statistics, [various years] Monthly Vital Statistics Report. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

  • Repeat childbearing is common in all race and ethnicity groups. The proportion of teen births that are repeat births is a little bit higher among black teens and Hispanic teens than other groups; but the more noteable fact is that in each group about 1 in 5 (19-27 percent) or more of the teen births are second or higher order births. (See Figure 5).
  • Source: Ventura, S.J., Peters, K.D., Martin, J.A., & Maurer, J.D. (1997) Births and Deaths in the United States, 1996. Monthly Vital Statistics Report, 46(1), supp. 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

  • Repeat births are somewhat more likely to occur to married teens than are first births, but the difference is smaller than many might expect. (See Figure 6). Among first births, 23.3 percent are to married teens. Among repeat births, 30.4 percent are to married teens. In other words, among teens having first births and among teens having repeat births, the vast majority occur to unmarried teens.
  • Source: Ventura, S.J. (1998). Unpublished data. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

  • It is clear that repeat childbearing is common among teen mothers. However, it is not universal to have a second or subsequent birth during the teen years. What are some of the factors that explain which adolescent mothers go on to have a repeat birth during their teen years? Dr. Jennifer Manlove and colleagues at Child Trends, Inc. have examined this question using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study. Students were followed over time from eighth grade through the high school years, and are still being interviewed. Dr. Manlove tracked those adolescents who had a first birth during their teen years and examined the factors distinguishing those teen mothers who had another birth from those who did not have a repeat birth.
  • She found that, even among teen mothers, there is considerable heterogeneity, and those teens with stronger prospects for the future and more support were less likely to have a repeat birth. (See Figure 7). Specifically, she found, that teen mothers were less likely to have a repeat birth if they:

    -were enrolled in a gifted class prior to the first birth;

    -did not drop out either prior to or after the first birth;

    -lived with a parent or on their own with their baby, rather than with a boyfriend, husband or other adult; and

    -if they managed to receive a high school diploma or GED.

    Source: Manlove, J., Mariner, C., & Romano, A. 1998. "Postponing second teen births in the 1990s: Longitudinal analyses of national data". Washington, DC, Child Trends, Inc.


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