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Teen Pregnancy Trends
in Missouri

Kim Allen, M.A., M.F.T., Associate State Specialist, Director, Center on Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy and Parenting (CASPP), Human Development & Family Studies, University of Missouri Extension

Like the national trends, Missouri teen pregnancy rates are on a decline, but there are still slightly more than 8,600 births to teens annually.
Much attention has been paid to the issue of teen pregnancy over the past fifteen years, with very good reason. Although the trend of unmarried births to teens has continually declined over the past decade, the need to get the message out that waiting until adulthood is best for all family members is still critical. Currently, the trend of births to young, unmarried parents is on the increase and there are serious concerns for all family members of pregnant or parenting teens. The number of single parent families has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Currently, more than half of all children do not live with both parents (McLanahan, Donahue & Haskins, 2005).


Like the national trends, Missouri teen pregnancy rates are on a decline, but there are still slightly more than 8,600 births to teens annually. Additionally, the rate of teen pregnancies for the Hispanic population is on the rise. From 1995 until 2005, the number of pregnancies among Hispanic girls increased by 140 percent, and the number of live births to Hispanic girls increased by 178 percent. At the same time, Caucasian girls are experiencing a slow but steady decline in rate of live births. The rate among African-American girls has declined most rapidly – going from a high of 109.8 per 1,000 girls in 1995 to a low of 71.6 by 2005. Rates among Caucasian girls dropped from 46.1 to a low of 35.9 per1,000 girls.


The teen pregnancy trends are improving, but the need to address the issue of teen pregnancy holds steadfast. The United States still has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, birth and abortion in the fully industrialized world (National Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy, 2002). The effects of these pregnancies have a negative impact on the family system. In order to combat these negative affects, pregnancy prevention programs must continue to educate youth on the effects of pregnancy for the child, the teen and the family system.

Impact of Teen Pregnancy on the Family


Impact on the child
Children born to teen mothers are often at a disadvantage physically and socially. Children born to young, unwed, low-income parents are at a much greater risk for inadequate prenatal care, low birth weight, and infant death as well as poor developmental outcomes (Nock, 2005). These children often have more emotional and social problems in childhood and adulthood (Amato, 2005). Children born to teen parents are also more likely to be abused or neglected, score lower in standardized testing, and are more likely to go to prison than a child born to an older mother (National Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy, 2002).

Poverty is another concern for children born to teen moms. In Missouri, 35 percent of all children live below the poverty level, and 66 percent of those children live in a single parent home (National Center for Children and Poverty, 2006). The discrepancy between two parent and single parent families is severe—the poverty rate for children living in married households is 8.4 percent whereas for children living in female headed households it is 38.4 percent.


Impact on the parents
Research shows that there are many advantages for teens to wait to become parents during adulthood. Teen parents are more likely to be unmarried, live in poverty, be depressed, alcoholic and commit suicide (Nock, 2005). A teen mother is at high risk for repeat pregnancy and not finishing school; teen fathers are more likely to be involved in risky behavior and earn less money throughout adulthood than married men who become parents.

These young parents are much more susceptible to depression and other mental health problems, have fewer economic resources and less opportunity for meaningful employment (Benson, 2004). Additionally, young mothers have less financial, emotional or parental support from the baby’s father (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2002). Although most unwed young couples are interested in marriage at the time of the baby’s birth, 80 percent of all teen parents will not keep a romantic connection with their babies’ parent (Mincy, Pouncy, Reichert, & Richardson, 2004). For most low income, unwed parents, the reality is that they will live in poverty and raise their children with little to no contact with the other parent.


Impact on the extended family
The implications for the high risk factors in health, mental health and economic wellbeing for teen parents creates a system that is more likely to fail for everyone involved, including children from outside the relationship and extended families. The extended family is still the primary support for teen parents. Young pregnant or parenting unwed adults continue to live with their parents for an average of five years and they most often provide emotional support, housing, transportation, financial and childcare assistance for their child and grandchild (Bunting & McAuley, 2004). Some studies suggest that with good support from families, these young parents have an increased likelihood for positive parenting and child outcomes (Bunting & McAuley, 2004). The reality is, however, that these families are often stressed and unable to support the teen and infant’s needs.


The good news is that teen birth rates have steadily declined over the past decade. Although the outcomes for teen pregnancy are often negative, there are strategies and programs that are working that can continue to improve the rate of births to teens. Although many children born to teen parents will grow up in single-parent families, there are also programs being developed that help adolescent parents learn to co-parent and gain other skills that will help them be successful after the birth of their baby. New generations of teenagers develop every few years, and the need for education and promotion of later life child-bearing is as relevant as ever. In order to make progress on the issue of teen pregnancy, teens and their families need to understand the consequences of early sexual activity and avoid early pregnancy and child-bearing. These fragile families are at greater risk for mental and physical health issues as well as poverty, making the need for pregnancy prevention and parenting programs as important as ever.

Center for Disease Control (2004). Preliminary births for 2004. National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved August 23, 2006 from: 


Benson, M. (2004). After the adolescent pregnancy: Parents, teens and families. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. 21, 435-455.


Bunting, L., & McAuley, C. (2004). Research Review: teenage pregnancy and
motherhood: the contribution of support. Child and Family Social Work, 9,


Child Trends, (2004). Births and related outcomes. Retrieved June, 7, 2006 from: 


McLanahan, S., Donahue, E. & Haskins, R. (2005). Introducing the issue. Marriage and Child Wellbeing: The Future of Children, 15, 3-12.


National Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy, (2002). Not just a single issue. Retrieved
March 9, 2006 from: 


Nock, S. (2005). Marriage as a public issue. Marriage and Child Wellbeing: The Future of Children, 15, 13-32.


Mincy, R., Pouncy, H., Reichert, D. & Richardson, P. (2004). Fragile families in focus: How low-income never married parents perceive relationships and marriage. Retrieved June 1, 2006 from 


National Center for Children and Poverty, 2006. Demographics of Poor Children: Missouri. Retrieved June 12, 2006 from: 




Last Updated 05/05/2009







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