Pregnancy and sexual health behaviors among youth in the child welfare system
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Teenage girls in foster care are estimated to have pregnancy rates that are roughly 20% higher than the national average. However, most research on the sexual health of foster youth has used small, non-representative samples of foster youth. This study examined both sexual activity and pregnancy among maltreated youth referred to child welfare systems using data from the National Survey on Child and Adolescent Well-being, the first nationally representative sample of youth who come into contact with the child welfare system. Three separate analyses were conducted to answer the overall question, ‘how does foster care impact sexual activity and pregnancy for maltreated youth?’ Descriptive statistics, multinomial regression and hierarchal generalized linear modeling were used to address separate research aims to understand foster care’s impact on sexual activity and pregnancy. Results suggest that there are few differences between maltreated youth who enter foster care and those who do not enter foster care. Additionally, foster care does not appear to impact rates of sexual activity or pregnancy for maltreated youth. Rather, problems in the family of origin and maltreatment the child had experienced appear to influence both sexual activity and pregnancy.