The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Adolescent Pregnancies with Happy Outcomes

The mere mention of teen pregnancy sends progressive commentators into paroxysms, but not all teen pregnancies are the same.  In a study recently completed at Tulane University, researchers identify adolescent pregnancies that have quite favorable outcomes.  Not surprisingly, wedlock emerges as a notable predictor of such positive outcomes.

Using what they call “a positive deviance framework,” the Tulane scholars analyze vital-records data for 35,013 Louisiana births to mothers age 19 or younger between 1995 and 2007, seeking to identify “uncommon behaviors and traits that result in better health outcomes” for these mothers and their infants.

In their final analysis of these data, the researchers find that “adolescents who were older, non-black, multiparous, non-smoking, married, gained a medium amount of weight, had a longer inter-pregnancy interval or received adequate prenatal care were most likely to experience a healthy pregnancy and birth.”

To be sure, marital status does not reach the threshold of statistical significance in the researchers’ initial analysis.  However, the researchers then re-assess the data after re-defining births by cesarean section and induced labor as healthy births.  The Tulane researchers thus find that “adolescents with a healthy birth by the broader definition were more likely to be married” than adolescents with an unhealthy birth (Relative Risk of 1.11).

The researchers believe that “identifying the beneficial attributes of positive deviant adolescent mothers—as opposed to just the factors associated with adverse birth outcomes—may help determine how to promote better birth outcomes in all young mothers.”

Wedding bells are clearly part of what is needed to promote such favorable outcomes.

(M.E. Wallace and E.W. Harville, “Predictors of Healthy Birth Outcome in Adolescents: A Positive Deviance Approach,” Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology 25.5 [2012]: 314-21, emphasis added.)