-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Preteen girls' reading
skills can strongly predict whether they'll get pregnant when
they're teens, a new study suggests.
University of Pennsylvania researchers looked at the reading
skills of more than 12,000 girls when they were in grade 7 (average
age 11.9 years) in Philadelphia public schools and then checked to
see how many of them gave birth when they were teens.
Girls with below-average reading skills in grade 7 were 2.5
times more likely to have a child during their teenage years than
those with average reading skills, the investigators found.
Among preteen girls with below-average reading skills, 21
percent had one baby and 3 percent had two or more babies during
their teens, compared with 12 percent and 1 percent, respectively,
of girls with average reading skills, and 5 percent and 0.4
percent, respectively, of those with above-average reading
The researchers also found that Hispanic and black girls were
more likely to have below-average reading skills, and that the link
between poor reading skills and teen pregnancy was stronger in
these groups of girls.
The study was scheduled for presentation Oct. 31 at the annual
meeting of the American Public Health Association and will be
published in the February 2013 issue of the journal
Poor reading skills in early grades are difficult to overcome
and may increase the risk that children will later drop out of
school, the researchers noted.
"It is quite possible that adolescent girls who experience a daily sense of rejection in the classroom might feel as though they have little chance of achievement later on in life," study author Rosemary Frasso said in a news release from the American Public Health Association. "Our findings underscore the role of literacy as its own social risk factor throughout the life course."
Health care providers working with preteen girls should consider
literacy when providing the girls with birth control and other
reproductive health services, the researchers concluded.
Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary
until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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