May 04, 2018
4 min read

Most adults support state assistance for pregnant teens

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Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Sarah J. Clark

Most adults believe that pregnant teenagers should receive state support and recognize the potential benefits to their child’s health; however, many believe that these teenagers should receive support for only certain supplies and should meet requirements, including drug testing and graduating high school, to receive this assistance.

These survey results, which were published by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, also found that women were more likely to endorse state support of pregnant teens than men.

“According to the CDC, the teen pregnancy rate in the United States is at a record low, but this is not solely good news” Sarah J. Clark, MPH, an associate research scientist in the department of pediatrics at the Child Health Evaluation and Research Center at the University of Michigan and co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “The U.S. teen pregnancy rate continues to be higher than other industrialized nations and within the U.S., black and Hispanic teens have higher pregnancy rates than white teens. There are also geographic differences in pregnancy rates.”

To observe adult opinions on several topics related to teen pregnancy, including state-provided support for medical care, food and supplies, Clark and colleagues conducted a nationally representative household survey. This survey was conducted by GfK Custom Research, LLC, for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in November 2017. The randomly selected, stratified group included parents aged 18 years or older with a child between the ages of 0 and 18 years.

The researchers then weighted the results of the study to mirror national population figures obtained by the Census Bureau. Of the 2,005 adults surveyed, 60% completed all questions. Clark and colleagues reported a ±2 to 4 percentage point margin of error in the results of this survey.

Of those who responded to the survey, 81% believed that state support of pregnant teens could be beneficial to their child’s health and, therefore, would be a good investment; however, there was disagreement regarding the level of comprehensive care a pregnant teen should receive from the state. When questioned about financial responsibility, 56% agreed that parents should be financially responsible. Over one-fourth of respondents (30%) believed that this responsibility should be split between community and religious groups and not left to the state.

Teen pregnancy graphic
Most adults expressed a strong belief in health-related support for pregnant teens and their babies, but adults were less certain on whether their state should provide formula or car seats and other baby supplies.
Source: C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan

“All states offer two key health-related resources that serve a large proportion of pregnant teens: Medicaid and WIC,” Clark said. “Medicaid will cover prenatal care, labor and delivery as well as postpartum care for teen mothers and health care for their babies. WIC provides checks or vouchers to purchase nutritional food as well as nutrition counseling and screening for other programs. Both Medicaid and WIC have residency and income eligibility requirements.”

“Beyond that, resources for pregnant teens vary widely from community to community, offered through a range of social service, health and faith-based organizations,” she continued. “This local variability can make it difficult for teens to access services and challenging for pediatricians to provide assistance.”

When medical care was questioned, over half of adults agreed that pregnant teenagers should ”definitely” receive care provided by the state (60%), and even more believed that the teens’ children should ”definitely” receive care from the state (69%). Clark and colleagues observed a split in whether states should be responsible for providing supplies to pregnant teens, with 52% ”definitely” believing the state should offer formula and 42% agreeing that the state should provide car seats and other supplies needed for the infant.

Analysis of survey responses revealed that women were more inclined to believe that the state should provide medical care, formula and other supplies for the infant when compared to men.

Clark and colleagues observed that an overwhelming majority of adults surveyed believed that the state should provide additional assistance to require paternal financial support (90%), but only 53% reported that they ”definitely” should offer legal help to receive child support. Fewer adults (44%) believed that the state should ”definitely” provide paternity testing.

Although men and women had similar beliefs on the state’s role in providing paternity testing, women were more likely than men to believe that the state should assist in providing legal help to obtain child support.

When questioned about pregnant teenagers who did not want to keep their child, 61% ”definitely” supported the state providing adoption services and 26% supported state-provided abortion services. Although state assistance for pregnant teens was generally supported by adults, 90% believed that certain requirements should be fulfilled to receive services, including prenatal visits (90%), parenting classes (88%), drug testing (85%) and completion of high school by the teen (78%).

Furthermore, 70% of adults reported that to receive these services, pregnant teens should have to meet all four of the suggested requirements.

“Pediatricians who are counseling pregnant teens should encourage the teen to talk with her parents about the situation,” Clark said. “Although the conversation will be difficult, parents are often a key source of support for pregnant teens. Pediatricians should also emphasize the need to begin prenatal care as soon as possible and, if possible, suggest a local obstetrician who might be well-suited for teen patients.”

“In addition to health care, obstetricians will be able to offer information and referral to a variety of resources and services that will be helpful to pregnant teens,” she added. “Finally, pediatricians should anticipatory guidance to the teen around well-baby visits and immunizations in addition to letting her know that the pediatrician’s office will work with her to stay on track and keep her newborn healthy.” – by Katherine Bortz

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.