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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hispanic teens make up half of pregnancies

Half of teen pregnancies in Larimer County among Hispanics
BY HALLIE WOODS • Coloradoan.com • June 21, 2009

Half of all teenage pregnancies in Larimer County between 2005 and 2007 occurred among the female Hispanic population, and officials say cultural differences may be a contributing factor.

From 2005 to 2007, 126 of the 251 pregnancies in women ages 15 to 17 occurred within the female Hispanic population in Larimer County. Hispanics make up 10 percent of the population in Larimer County.

The birth rate for Hispanic teenagers in that time period was 67.7 to 71.3 per 1,000, and 8.6 per 1,000 for non-Hispanics, according to data compiled by the Healthier Communities Coalition of Larimer County.

The rate is above the state of Colorado's numbers, at 65.5 per 1,000 births.

Experts say there isn't a solid body of research to pinpoint causes, but they know a variety of issues can play a part in the large number of Hispanic teen pregnancies.

"Teen pregnancy for all populations is really a complex issue; there isn't one single answer," said Kori Wilford, health educator for the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. "Really, teen pregnancy really runs across all classes and all ethnicities."

Larimer County isn't isolated in this phenomenon - 53 percent of Hispanic females get pregnant at least once before they reach 20, which is two times the national average, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Some target cultural family values and an emphasis on motherhood as one of the possible explanations, said Sarah Killoren, a post-doctoral research associate at CSU who has focused her area of study on Hispanic sexuality.

How parents enforce values or what kind of emphasis they put on avoiding teen pregnancy can also help determine teen pregnancy rates, said Lise Youngblade, head of the department of human development and family studies at Colorado State University.

A 2000 study based on census data found that the birth rate for non-U.S.-born Hispanic teens was twice the rate of U.S.-born Hispanic teens.

"It could just be the values that they are bringing with them that are just more traditional," Killoren said. "Coming to a new place, you would expect the strongest influence of that first generation to be the culture of origin."
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A difference in the use of contraception could also be a contributor to high pregnancy rates.

Approximately 50 percent of female Hispanic girls ages 15 to 17 reported using a condom during their last sexual encounter, compared with 56 percent of Caucasian females and 62 percent of black female teenagers, reports the National Campaign.

"(Hispanics) are less likely to use contraception, and that can be for religious reasons or power differentials within the couples," Killoren said. "Some females are not comfortable asking to use contraception."

Killoren said that though some methods of intervention and prevention have proved successful in the Hispanic population, there is no single approach that will reach any specific population.

"Because there is so much diversity among Latinos, it really is necessary to direct these specifically to Latino sub-groups," she said.

Wilford added, however, that family communication seems to be a very effective tool in cutting back teen pregnancies across a variety of cultures.

"It's important to educate the whole family why it's important to talk about sex," she said.

A difference in the use of contraception could also be a contributor to high pregnancy rates.

Approximately 50 percent of female Hispanic girls ages 15 to 17 reported using a condom during their last sexual encounter, compared with 56 percent of Caucasian females and 62 percent of black female teenagers, reports the National Campaign.

"(Hispanics) are less likely to use contraception, and that can be for religious reasons or power differentials within the couples," Killoren said. "Some females are not comfortable asking to use contraception."

Killoren said that though some methods of intervention and prevention have proved successful in the Hispanic population, there is no single approach that will reach any specific population.

"Because there is so much diversity among Latinos, it really is necessary to direct these specifically to Latino sub-groups," she said.

Wilford added, however, that family communication seems to be a very effective tool in cutting back teen pregnancies across a variety of cultures.

"It's important to educate the whole family why it's important to talk about sex," she said.

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