Journal of Public Health

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 379–384 | Cite as

Teenage childbearing: a growing public health concern in need of urgent policy and program action

  • Rajesh Kumar Rai
  • Prashant Kumar Singh
  • Chandan Kumar
  • Sulabha Parasuraman



While there has been a considerable decline in birth rate worldwide, there is growing concern among program and policy makers about the level of adolescent birth rate (ABR, birth per 1,000 women aged 15–19 years), commonly considered an indicator of teenage childbearing, a potential cause of maternal and child morbidity and mortality. This has also been addressed in the fifth Millennium Development Goal. The insufficient performance in reducing ABR led to the establishment of the United Nations Interagency Task Force on Adolescent Girls (UNITFAG) in 2010. The UNITFAG aims to make girls a priority in national development planning and it is expected that by 2015, the task force would have successfully rolled out comprehensive programs in twenty developing countries that will improve their health and education, promote their leadership skills and protect them from violence. In this overview, we discuss both the accomplishments and the barriers faced in addressing ABR globally, and the policies and programs required to tackle them.

Subject and methods

Literature review


We propose a bi-model approach to address the issue of teenage childbearing. The approach includes preventing early marriage and focuses on postponing childbearing among girls who were married at an early age.


The most effective approach to make communities realise how teenage childbearing compromises the health of mothers as well as their children is the targeted community based intervention.


Teenage childbearing Adolescent Program and policy Millennium Development Goal 


  1. Bonomi AE, Thompson RS, Anderson M, Reid RJ, Carrell D, Dimer JA, Rivara FP (2006) Intimate partner violence and women’s physical, mental, and social functioning. Am J Prev Med 30:458–466PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Braine T (2009) Adolescent pregnancy: a culturally complex issue. Bull World Health Organ 87:410–411PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chatters LM (2000) Religion and health: public health research and practice. Annu Rev Public Health 21:233–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Colleen PC, Neil WB, Janet CR, Catherine AT, David LO (2009) The role of mental health factors, behavioral factors, and past experiences in the prediction of rapid repeat pregnancy in adolescence. J Adolesc Health 44:25–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dutton MA, Green BL, Kaltman SI, Roesch DM, Zeffiro TA, Krause ED (2006) Intimate partner violence, PTSD, and adverse health outcomes. J Interpers Violence 21:955–968PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gyimaha SO, Takyib BK, Addaic I (2006) Challenges to the reproductive-health needs of African women: on religion and maternal health utilization in Ghana. Soc Sci Med 62:2930–2944CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hampton T (2010) Child marriage threatens girls’ health. JAMA 304:509–510PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hervish A, Feldman-Jacobs C (2011) Who speaks for me? Ending child marriage. Policy brief, Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  9. International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Population Council (2008) How early marriage compromises girl’s lives: findings from the Youth in India: Situation and Needs study, Maharashtra, 2006–2007, Policy brief No. 6, IIPS, Mumbai, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  10. Kishor S, Johnson K (2004) Profiling domestic violence: a multi-country study. ORC MACRO, Calverton, MDGoogle Scholar
  11. Manlove J, Ikramullah E, Mincieli L, Holcombe E, Danish S (2009) Trends in sexual experience, contraceptive use, and teenage childbearing: 1992–2002. J Adolesc Health 44:413–423PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. McIntyre P (2006) Married adolescents: no place of safety. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  13. Smith PH, White JW, Holland LJ (2003) A longitudinal perspective on dating violence among adolescent and college-age women. Am J Public Health 93:1104–1109PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Stephenson J, Strange V, Allen E, Copas A, Johnson A et al (2008) The long-term effects of a peer-led sex education programme (RIPPLE): a cluster randomised trial in schools in England. PLoS Med 5:e224PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Takyi BK (2003) Religion and women’s health in Ghana: insights into HIV/AIDS preventive and protective behavior. Soc Sci Med 56:1221–1234PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Tjaden P, Thoennes N (2000) Extent, nature and consequences of intimate partner violence: findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GAGoogle Scholar
  17. United Nations (2011a) World fertility report 2009. ST/ESA/SER.A/304, Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, UN, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. United Nations. (2011b) World fertility policies 2011. ST/ESA/SER.A/303, Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, UN, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. United Nations Interagency Task Force on Adolescent Girls (2010) Accelerating efforts to advance the rights of adolescent girls: a UN joint statement. Accessed 30 August 2012
  20. Wolfe DA, Crooks C, Jaffe P, Chiodo D, Hughes R, Ellis W, Stitt L, Donner A (2009) A school-based program to prevent adolescent dating violence: a cluster randomized trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 163:692–699PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wood PL (2012) Teenage sexuality in different cultures. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 25:228–232PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. World Health Organization (2008) 10 facts on adolescent health. WHO, Geneva. Accessed 30 August 2012
  23. World Health Organization (2010) Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2010: WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and the World Bank estimates. WHO, GenevaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rajesh Kumar Rai
    • 1
  • Prashant Kumar Singh
    • 2
  • Chandan Kumar
    • 3
  • Sulabha Parasuraman
    • 4
  1. 1.Tata Institute of Social SciencesMumbaiIndia
  2. 2.International Institute for Population SciencesMumbaiIndia
  3. 3.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIndian Institute of Technology RoorkeeRoorkeeIndia
  4. 4.MumbaiIndia

Personalised recommendations