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Understanding why teen pregnancies are more common among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth compared to heterosexuals

Brittany Charlton, Boston Children’s Hospital

Project abstract

Sexual minority females (i.e., lesbians, bisexuals) are at an increased risk for teen pregnancy and need access to abortion services. This population reports established risk factors for teen pregnancy, such as earlier sexual initiation, more frequently than heterosexuals.

It has been suggested, though not empirically examined, that this group may have additional risk factors for teen pregnancy that are unique to sexual minorities; for example, a lesbian may have sex with a man as a way to avoid or cope with stigma about her sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the existing literature on sexual orientation and teen pregnancy is limited and what does exist has been siloed into different fields.

Our interdisciplinary team will collaborate across three distinct fields—epidemiology, psychology, and medicine—to conduct a research project that will illuminate the mechanisms behind increased rates of teen pregnancy among sexual minorities as well as their experiences with abortion. In Phase I, our team began a qualitative study with sexual minority women who had a teen pregnancy. In Phase II, our team will build on this existing framework to conduct a qualitative study with sexual minority men who have been involved with a teen pregnancy and another qualitative study with healthcare providers who care for pregnant adolescents. Then, we’ll use these qualitative results to inform a quantitative study based among nearly 200,000 individuals enrolled in four longitudinal cohorts based at Harvard Medical School; all while ensuring the work translates to improved clinical care and public health prevention strategies for teen pregnancy.

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