Research Finds That Reproductive Coercion Impacts One of Eight Sexually-Active Teenage Girls

A study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has found that reproductive coercion, a form of relationship abuse that includes pressuring a partner to become pregnant when they don’t want to be, is prevalent among teenage girls seeking care at high school health centers.

The study used data from a previously conducted randomized trial at eight school-based health centers in California and assessed 550 sexually active female teens ages 14 to 19. Approximately 1 in 8 sexually active high school girls had experienced reproductive coercion within the three months prior to the survey, and about 1 in 6 reported physical or sexual abuse in a relationship in the 3 months.

Amber Hill, a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of the study, noted that “we know that in studies with adults, women experiencing reproductive coercion use the health care system differently. We wanted to see if this was true with an adolescent population. This is important given the unique aspects of adolescent romantic relationships and the different ways adolescents seek health care when compared to adults.”

The study examined how often and what type of health care teenage girls sought at school health centers, and found no differences between girls who experienced abuse compared to those who did not. “This is different from what we see in studies with adults, where partner violence substantially impacts health care seeking behaviors,” said Hill. “Our inability to show distinct patterns for seeking care supports the need for health care providers to always consider whether the young person is experiencing relationship abuse and to offer education and resources about healthy relationships to all of their adolescent and young adult patients.”

Hill is a graduate of the University of British Columbia, where she majored in biophysics. She holds a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and is completing work on a medical doctorate and a Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.

The full study, “Reproductive Coercion and Relationship Abuse Among Adolescents and Young Women Seeking Care at School Health Centers,” was published on the website of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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