Purpose: Previous research has documented the strong link between violence exposure, especially sexual abuse, and teen pregnancy involvement among adolescents. However, not all teens exposed to violence end up becoming pregnant or causing a pregnancy. Some few studies have examined protective factors that reduce the odds of teen pregnancy, but seldom as a buffer to violence exposure. The aim of this study was to estimate the probability of teen pregnancy involvement with varying combinations of violence exposure and potential protective factors.
Methods: This study used data from the 2008 BC Adolescent Health Survey, a province-wide, school-based, cluster-stratified random survey administered to 29,315 public school students in grades 7-12 in Western Canada. Teen pregnancy involvement was asked of both boys and girls. The risk exposure focused on three types of violence: verbal (teasing and sexual comments), physical violence (physical attacks, physical abuse, dating violence and fighting), and sexual violence (physical sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and forced intercourse). Potential protective factors included family connectedness, school connectedness, pro-social peer attitudes about risky behaviors, having at least one adult youth can turn to with problems, perceived helpfulness of various adult professionals, extracurricular activities (sports with or without a coach, dance or aerobic classes, art groups, clubs, hobby or crafts, and volunteering), as well as the perceived meaningfulness of youth’s activities. Analyses involved probability profiling; first, bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed for pregnancy involvement, to identify significant violence exposure risks and the top three strongest protective factors. These factors were then combined in an age-adjusted multivariate logistic regression model to obtain beta weights, which were used to calculate the effects of different combinations of the presence or absence of violence exposures and protective factors on the probability of pregnancy involvement. All analyses were separate by gender and age-adjusted.
Results: For both genders, physical and sexual violence were significant risk factors for pregnancy involvement, while family and school connectedness and pro-social peer attitudes were the three strongest protective factors. The probability profiles showed that for students who were exposed to both physical and sexual violence and no protective factors, the probability of pregnancy involvement was around 32.6% for boys and 20.2% for girls. However, for students with high levels of family and school connectedness, and peers with healthy attitudes towards risk behaviours, the probabilities of pregnancy involvement were greatly reduced, even for students who had experienced both physical and sexual violence (8.3% for boys, 1.8% for girls. Even with only one protective factor present, probabilities were decreased by at least a third for both genders.
Conclusions: Reducing violence exposure is an important preventive intervention for teen pregnancy, but even when this is not possible, promoting supportive family, school, and peer connections may reduce the chance of teen pregnancy involvement among young people expsosed to sexual and physical violence.