Nearly one in eight teenage girls in the US claim to have been pressured into having their boyfriends’ children, research suggests.
Scientists from Michigan State University interviewed 550 sexually-active girls aged 14 to 19.
Around 12 per cent – one in eight – claimed to have been ‘coerced into reproduction’ within the past three months.
Some alleged their boyfriends threatened to leave them, or impregnate someone else, unless they agreed to carry his child.
Others accused their partners of punching holes in condoms, hiding their birth control pills and even taking a condom off during sex.
Nearly one in eight teenage girls in the US ‘have been pressured into having children’ (stock)
‘These findings highlight how common reproductive coercion and other forms of abuse are in adolescent relationships’, lead author Dr Heather McCauley said.
‘Yet the signs of a teen’s unhealthy relationship may be tricky for clinicians, parents and other adults to spot.
‘Parents could open the door for their teen to disclose abuse by having a conversation with them about healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviours.
‘[This could include behaviours] that interfere with their decision making about their own reproductive health.’
Relationship abuse has reached ‘alarming’ highs among teenage girls in the US, the researchers wrote in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Reproductive coercion, a form of abuse, is defined as a girl or women feeling pressured to become pregnant against her will.
To date, most research on reproductive coercion has looked at young adult women.
This is despite ‘adolescent relationship abuse’ being linked to STIs, depression and illicit drug taking, the researchers wrote.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stresses the importance of teenage girls being assessed for ‘healthy relationships’ by their physician.
To identify the signs to look out for, the researchers interviewed girls across eight ‘school-based health centres’ in California between 2012 and 2013.
WHAT IS REPRODUCTIVE COERCION?
Reproductive coercion is a form of relationship abuse that occurs when a girl or woman is forced or pressured to become pregnant against her will.
An abuser may tell the woman not to use birth control.
They may also tamper with condoms or remove them during sex.
Others may hide birth-control Pills or prevent a woman from going to the clinic to collect the contraceptive.
Abusers may also threaten to leave unless the woman carries their child or may say they will impregnate someone else.
Victims may also be physically hurt if they do not agree to try and become pregnant.
The girls were asked if they had been forced or pressured to become pregnant in the past three months.
This included being told not to use contraception or their other halves’ tampering with it.
Results revealed nearly one in eight of the students claimed to have been victims of reproductive coercion. It is unclear how many went on to have children.
And 17 per cent also reported physical or sexual abuse. This included being hit, pushed or even choked.
‘Non-partner sexual violence’ was also experienced by 17 per cent of the participants.
Those who had been exposed to reproductive coercion were four times more likely to complain of other forms of relationship abuse.
The girls who were victims of reproductive coercion and other forms of abuse were over four times more likely to have a boyfriend five or more years older than them.
And they were over three times more likely to have had two or more sexual partners in the past three months.
Worryingly, these girls did not show any more warning signs than those who had not been victims of abuse.
‘We looked at whether adolescents who experience reproductive coercion displayed the “red flags” we typically teach clinicians to look for’, Dr McCauley said.
‘[This can include] coming into the clinic multiple times for emergency contraception or pregnancy testing.
‘We found no difference in care-seeking behaviours between girls who experienced reproductive coercion and girls who didn’t, so those red flags may not be present.
‘Therefore, clinicians should have conversations with all their adolescent patients about how relationships can impact their health.’
Unlike previous research, the black participants were no more likely to report abuse than their white counterparts.
The researchers want all adolescents and young women to be offered information on reproductive coercion.
‘Routine inquiry for these exposures can be integrated into every clinical encounter,’ they wrote.