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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sociocultural Determinants of Teenage Childbearing Among Latinas in California

  • Author(s): Dehlendorf, Christine
  • Marchi, Kristen
  • Vittinghoff, Eric
  • Braveman, Paula
  • et al.

Objectives U.S. Latinas have a persistently high rate of teenage childbearing, which is associated with adverse outcomes for both mother and child. This study was designed to investigate the roles of socioeconomic factors and acculturation in teenage childbearing in this population. Methods Logistic regression was used to analyze the association of measures of acculturation (language spoken at home, nativity, and age at immigration) and respondents’ parents’ education with age at first birth in a stratified sample of post-partum women in California. Results The unadjusted odds ratio for teenage birth for Latinas versus non-Latina Whites was 5.2 (95% CI 4.1–6.6). Nativity was not significantly associated with teen birth, but speaking Spanish at home was positively associated and immigrating at a later age was negatively associated with teen birth. Overall, these measures of acculturation accounted for 17% (95% CI 8–28%) of the difference in odds of teen birth between Latinas and non-Latina Whites. Higher levels of education among respondents’ parents had differentially protective effects across the racial/ethnic groups. Controlling for disparities in respondents’ parents’ education without changing its differential effects across racial/ethnic groups reduced the odds ratio for Latinas compared to non-Latina Whites by 30% (95% CI 14–60%). Conclusion These findings call into question common assumptions about the protective effect of acculturation on teen fertility and suggest that improving childhood socioeconomic factors among Latinas may decrease teen childbearing.

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