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Largest Generation Of Adolescents Faces Reproductive Health Risks

NEW YORK -- What are the consequences of early sexual activity and childbearing and what can be done to help adolescents in developing countries make a healthy transition to adulthood? Although adolescence is one of the most crucial times of life, little attention has been devoted to the reproductive health of young men and women in developing countries, even as the largest generation of adolescents comes of age. The June 1998 issue of Studies in Family Planning -- a special edition devoted to adolescents -- explores the social, economic, biological, and demographic events that affect adolescents in the developing world. Nine of the ten articles, written by demographers, sociologists, economists, and public health specialists, stem from a March 1997 workshop sponsored by the Committee on Population of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The quality of future adult life depends largely on the extent to which adolescents take advantage of opportunities for personal growth by going to school and being employed while avoiding potentially problematic outcomes of sexual relations, such as early dropout from school, unplanned pregnancy, or adverse health effects," note demographers John Bongaarts and Barney Cohen in the issue's introduction.

Key findings from the studies in this issue include:

  • The length of time between first intercourse and first marriage has increased in many countries, exposing young women to a greater risk of premarital pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV and AIDS.
  • Adolescents are unlikely to use a contraceptive the first time they have sex, even though the majority of adolescent women in developing countries know about contraceptive methods.
  • The attitudes of peers and partners exert a powerful influence on how adolescents in developing countries make decisions about sexuality, whereas family opinions are given less weight.
  • Early childbearing poses significant health risks for adolescents
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Contact: Christina Horzepa
chorzepa@popcouncil.org
212-339-0520
Population Council
23-Jun-1998


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