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What Can Schools Do to Prevent Teen Pregnancy?

Lynn Blinn Pike, Ph.D., Former Human Development & Family Studies Specialist,
College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia


According to National School Boards Association, these are facts that local school administrators, parents, and school board members need to recognize: 

  • while the teenage pregnancy rate has declined in the United States in the last ten years, the United States still has a teen rate that is significantly higher than other industrialized countries;
  • over half a million teens between 15 and 19 years of age give birth each year in the United States;
  • the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the United States remain among poor young women of color;
  • teen mothers are significantly more likely to have been abused as young children;
  • teens are more likely to be physically abused during pregnancy than adult women;
  • teen pregnancy costs the United States over $7 billion each year; and
  • only one-third of teen mothers will complete high school.

Public schools serve over 50 million children in this country and can serve as important parts of a comprehensive approach to preventing teen pregnancy in four ways.

First, schools can promote academic success, connectedness and self-worth, all of which have been shown to reduce high-risk behaviors among teens.

Second, schools can implement comprehensive programs that include support, education, tutoring, and recreation, also known to reduce high-risk behaviors before teen pregnancy.

Third, schools can implement programs aimed at positive youth development. Youth development programs are defined as including those prevention approaches that foster resiliency in children around these themes: Connectedness, Confidence, and Character.


  • Connectedness means feeling safe, having close relationships with others and feeling like you belong to a particular group.
  • Confidence means having high self-worth, and feeling in control of one's life.
  • Character involves feeling competent that the following are available and attainable: positive career choices, good health, and satisfying relationships with family, peers and other adults.

The National School Boards Association and the National Association of State Boards of Education met in Washington, DC in 1998 to conduct a national form on what schools can do to prevent teen pregnancy and promote student achievement. Their recommendations can be broken down into those that deal with what is learned, what competencies are addressed for a successful future, and what roles adults can play in preventing teen pregnancy. As far as the learning that needs to take place, schools need to set high standards for all students and adopt appropriate assessment and testing plans to identify effective curricula. In preparing students for successful futures, schools should strive to foster youth who are competent vocationally, physically, and socially. This which can be accomplished, at least in part, by incorporating character education it the school curriculum, providing carefully planned service learning activities in the school curriculum, and promoting extracurricular and after-school programs.


Finally, adults within and outside of the school system need to work together to share a common vision about education, make the most out of limited educational resources, and seek information about programs and curricula that have strong evidence of effectiveness.


Last Updated 12/08/2016








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