Teen pregnancy and urban youth: Competing truths, complacency, and perceptions of the problem

Adria Gallup-Black, Beth C. Weitzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose To compare and contrast perceptions of community leaders, adults, and youth about the extent of the teen pregnancy problem in five American cities: Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Richmond. Methods In the five cities from late 1998 through early 2000, semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 79 key informants (leaders influential in children's policy issues) to ascertain their perceptions of the most pressing problems facing youth in their cities. Structured, computer-assisted interviews on a range of issues, including teen childbearing and sexual activity, were conducted with 7716 randomly selected adults and 2768 youth aged 10-18 years. The key informant interviews were transcribed and coded; reviewers were paired to validate the coding. The surveys were analyzed using SPSS. Results Among the key informants, teen pregnancy was cited as a big problem by only 15%; other issues, such as crime and schools, were seen as more pressing. However, 58% of the adults in the general population thought that teen pregnancy was a big problem. Although almost 3/4 of youth in these cities believed their parents would be upset if they had sex, 87% reported that teen sexual activity before age 18 years was acceptable to their peers, 53% said that teen parenthood was considered acceptable, and 51% had at least one friend who was a teen parent. There were statistically significant differences in the adult and youth responses by race, income, and educational attainment. Conclusions Although few leaders see teen pregnancy as a pressing problem, adults remain deeply concerned, and youth indicate that the problem is prevalent and accepted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-375
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Key informants
  • Public opinion
  • Teen childbearing
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Urban
  • Youth opinion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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