Teenage birth rates higher in more religious states

September 17, 2009

Rates of births to teenage mothers are strongly predicted by conservative religious beliefs, even after controlling for differences in income and rates of abortion. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Reproductive Health have found a strong association between teenage birth rates and state-level measures of religiosity in the U.S.

Joseph Strayhorn, an adjunct faculty member with Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh, and Jillian Strayhorn used data from the Pew Forum's US Religious Landscapes Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate the state level effects of belief on teen birth rates. Joseph Strayhorn said, "The magnitude of the correlation between religiosity and teen birth rate astonished us. Teen birth is more highly correlated with some of the religiosity items on the Religious Landscapes Survey than some of those items are correlated with each other".

The religiosity of a state was determined by averaging the percents of respondents who agreed with the eight most conservative opinions possible in the Religious Landscapes Survey, such as 'There is only one way to interpret the teachings of my religion' or 'Scripture should be taken literally, word for word'.

According to Strayhorn, "Our findings by themselves do not, of course, permit causal inferences. But, if we may speculate on the most probable explanation, we conjecture that religious communities in the US are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging itself".

Religiosity and teen birth rate in the United States; Joseph M Strayhorn and Jillian C Strayhorn; Reproductive Health (in press); www.reproductive-health-journal.com/

Source: BioMed Central (news : web)

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6 comments

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jeffhans
1 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2009
They do not distinguish between married and unwed teenage mothers.
OBSL33t
not rated yet Sep 17, 2009
The results don't surprise me one bit.

"They do not distinguish between married and unwed teenage mothers."
Because that variable is not relevant.
Hernan
5 / 5 (1) Sep 17, 2009
Jeffhans -- They state that the risk to the child of a teenager for several emotional and social problems is higher, and that's the reason for their survey. Whether or not the parents were married -- or remain married -- is not the focus.

A follow up on how marriage (before or after pregnancy) is related to religious belief, the longevity and emotional quality of such marriages, and how it affects the child, would be a worthwhile research.
alexxx
Sep 17, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Roj
not rated yet Sep 18, 2009
..we conjecture that religious communities in the US are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception


Religious communities, especially Protestants, also leverage co-ed, youth-group activities as part of their marketing. Young people have more opportunity to interact than non-religious school kids who's extra-curricular activity may be defined by same-sex sports, computer games, porn-speed modems and tossing off.
david_42
5 / 5 (1) Sep 20, 2009
As an example: In a town of 1800 people, there are eight churches. 14 of the girls in the local high school became pregnant in the last year. That's 10%. And yes, ALL of them were not married. The school board had a major battle in their effort to provide information and contraceptives to girls who had already given birth or were pregnant. People were arguing that this would encourage the girls to have sex. Re-read the prior sentence. 14 virgin births in one year, I think that's a record.

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