Date of this Version
Although there is widespread interest in preventing teenage pregnancy, few interventions have been directed toward young adolescents. In part this neglect is understandable because adolescents under age 15 account for only a small percentage of teenage pregnancies (Pittman & Adams, 1988). At the same time, the lack of attention to younger adolescents is unfortunate on several counts. First, an increasing number of young adolescents are at risk. Rates of sexual activity have been rising in this group (Hofferth, Kahn, & Baldwin, 1987) and, because young adolescents are typically not consistent or effective contraceptive users, an increasing number of girls are becoming pregnant. Between 1973 and 1987 the pregnancy rate among girls under age 1 5 increased 2 3 % , from 14 to 17 per 1,000 (Henshaw, Kenney, Somberg, & Van Vort, 1989). In fact, this is the only group for whom pregnancy rates have not declined in recent years. Second, early adolescence represents an important window of opportunity for adolescent pregnancy prevention. During early adolescence, most young people become capable of reproduction and many become sexually active. Thus, prevention efforts need to start by this age if they are to precede the biological and behavioral onset of pregnancy risk. Furthermore, skills and attitudes developed in early adolescence may have long-term benefits, reducing pregnancy risk throughout the teenage years.