Author(s): Were M
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Abstract Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the highest levels of teenage pregnancies in the world. In spite of that, there is paucity of empirical research on causes of teenage pregnancies in African countries. This paper investigates the determinants of teenage pregnancies based on a case study of Busia District in Kenya. The data are from a household survey conducted in 1998/1999. Empirical results indicate that girls' education level has significant influence on the probability of teenage birth, with non-schooling adolescents and those with primary school level education being more vulnerable. Among the variables used as proxies for access to sex education, availability of church forums that educate adolescents about sex and family life issues reduce probability of teenage pregnancy. Age is positively related to teenage pregnancies, with older adolescents being more predisposed to pregnancies. Though use of contraceptives is found to have a positive effect, only a small proportion of adolescents were using modern contraceptives and, supply side factors such as quality and availability were not accounted for. Other key factors as outlined by the adolescents themselves include peer pressure and social environment-related factors like inappropriate forms of recreation, which act as rendezvous for pre-marital sex, as well as lack of parental guidance and counselling. Overall, lack of access to education opportunities, sex education and information regarding contraceptives, as well the widespread poverty predispose girls to teenage pregnancies. The problem of teenage pregnancies should be viewed within the broader socio-economic and socio-cultural environment in which the adolescents operate. For instance, lack of parental guidance on issues of sexuality and sex education was reinforced by cultural taboos that inhibit such discussions. Adolescents should be equipped with the relevant knowledge to enable them make informed choices regarding sexual relationships. This should be complemented with broader programmes aimed at promoting girl education and poverty alleviation.
This article was published in Econ Hum Biol
and referenced in Journal of Pregnancy and Child Health