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Teen pregnancy among sexual minorities linked to abuse: study :

March 12, 2018

Bisexual and lesbian women are more likely to get pregnant as teenagers than heterosexual peers, which is explained in part by childhood abuse and bullying, a new study found.

These risk factors should play a key role in prevention of pregnancy among all teens, authors said in the study “Teen Pregnancy Risk Factors Among Young Women of Diverse Sexual Orientations” (Charlton BM, et al. Pediatrics. March 12, 2018,

Researchers analyzed data from the Growing Up Today Study on 7,120 females, of whom 2% reported a teen pregnancy. They looked at potential teen pregnancy risk factors among all participants such as maltreatment, bullying victimization and perpetration, and gender nonconformity. They also studied potential risk factors specific to being a sexual minority (bisexual, lesbian). Those included the age when they first identified as a sexual minority, stress related to their sexual orientation, how public their sexual minority status was and participation in social activities related to their sexuality.

Bisexual teens had nearly five times the risk of teen pregnancy, and those who identified as mostly heterosexual or lesbian had about twice the risk compared to teens who were completely heterosexual.

About 45% of the disparity was attributed to maltreatment and bullying, which increased teen pregnancy risk among all participants and were experienced at greater rates among sexual minorities. Broken down further, physical or emotional abuse explained 38% of the disparity, sexual abuse explained 32% and bullying was not statistically significant.

Sexual minority women who have been abused, bullied or perpetrated bullying may have sex with men as they grapple with feelings of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or a desire to hide their sexuality, according to the study.

Lesbian and bisexual women who were younger when they reached milestones like same-sex attraction, identifying as a sexual minority and same-sex sexual contact also were at higher risk of teen pregnancy. Those women may struggle to cope with the stigma attached to them at a young age, according to the study.

“Teen pregnancy prevention efforts should focus on risk factors such as childhood maltreatment and bullying among young people of all sexual orientations,” authors wrote.

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