New research reveals that nearly one-third of all women in developing countries become mothers during adolescence

teen girl
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Nearly a third of all women in developing countries begin childbearing at age 19 and younger, and nearly half of first births to adolescents are to children or girls aged 17 and younger, reveals research released today by UNFPA, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency.

While total fertility across the globe has fallen, the UNFPA report shows that women who began in adolescence had almost 5 births by the time they reached age 40 in 2015–2019.

"When nearly a third of all women in developing countries are becoming mothers during adolescence, it is clear the world is failing adolescent girls," said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. "The repeat pregnancies we see among adolescent mothers are a glaring signpost that they desperately need sexual and reproductive health information and services."

After having their first child, additional childbearing in adolescence is common for child mothers. Among girls with a first at age 14 or younger, nearly three-quarters also have a second birth in adolescence, and 40 percent of those with two births progress to a third birth before exiting adolescence.

Complications from giving birth are a leading cause of death and injury for adolescent girls, but being an adolescent mother can also lead to other grave violations of their human rights and serious social consequences, including child marriage, intimate-partner violence and mental health issues. The youngest child mothers face the highest risks.

Across the globe, there are encouraging signs of declining levels of in childhood and adolescence. But the pace of decline has been alarmingly slow—often by only about three percentage points per decade.

"Governments need to invest in adolescent girls and help expand their opportunities, resources, and skillsets, thereby helping avoid early and unintended pregnancies," said Dr. Kanem. "When girls can meaningfully chart their own life course, motherhood in childhood will grow increasingly rare."

The report lays out recommendations for policymakers, including the need to provide girls with comprehensive , mentorship, social support, and quality health services; provide families with economic support; and engage local organizations, all within a supportive policy and legal framework that recognizes the rights, capacities and needs of , particularly marginalized .

More information: Please click the link to access Motherhood in Childhood: The Untold Story (2022).

Provided by United Nations Population Fund
Citation: New research reveals that nearly one-third of all women in developing countries become mothers during adolescence (2022, July 5) retrieved 26 February 2024 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Researchers propose programming to support adolescent mothers in areas of conflict


Feedback to editors