Adolescent Pregnancy and Childbearing in Southeastern Ghana a Pathway to Adulthood Where Educational and Employment Opportunities Limited

The study, published in International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, examines how relationship types are linked to adolescent fertility—defined as a live birth or current pregnancy before age 20. The researchers collected data on more than 350 romantic and sexual relationships among almost 300 adolescent women in two towns in southeastern Ghana. In this sample, adolescent fertility occurred in 17% of relationships. 

Reducing adolescent pregnancy and childbearing in Sub-Saharan Africa is a public health and development priority, given the associated health risks for mother and child as well as the associated social consequences, including lower levels of educational attainment. While early marriage is common and acts as the primary driver of adolescent fertility in some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, this is not the case in Ghana. In the West African nation, adolescent pregnancy and childbearing most often occur outside of marriage. Therefore, identifying the specific relationship contexts in which these events happen can lead to a better understanding of the drivers of adolescent fertility and thus to the design of more effective interventions. 

The study finds the relationship factors most strongly associated with adolescent pregnancy and childbearing are the partner’s provision of basic financial support and cohabitation or marriage. There is also some evidence that power disparity and a partner who is five or more years older are associated with adolescent fertility.