Social normative and social network factors associated with adolescent pregnancy: a cross-sectional study of 176 villages in rural Honduras

Abstract

Background: Adolescent pregnancy and childbirth are common throughout Central America. While gendered beliefs promoting motherhood are a known risk factor, their association with adolescent childbirth within the social networks of Central American communities is unknown.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study looking at adolescent childbirth amongst women ages 15-20 years (N = 2990) in rural Honduras, using reproductive health data on all individuals ≥15 years of age (N = 24 937 of 31 300 population) including social network contacts, all of whom were interviewed as part of the study. The outcome, adolescent childbirth, was defined as having had a child < age 20 years. Predictors included whether a woman's social contact had an adolescent childbirth and the social contact's reported perception of community support for adolescent childbirth.

Results: While girls who identified a father in the village as a social contact had a lower likelihood of adolescent childbirth regardless of whether or not they reported being in a partnership, this finding did not hold for girls who identified mothers. There was an association between a social contact's report of norms supporting adolescent childbirth and a girl's risk of adolescent childbirth; however, village-level aggregate norms attenuated that relationship. Independent significant associations were found between a girl's risk of adolescent childbirth and both a social contact's adolescent childbirth and the village proportion of women who had had an adolescent childbirth. The association between social contacts' adolescent childbirth and a girl's risk of adolescent childbirth across relationships was more robust for stronger relationships and when the social contact was closer in age to the girl.

Conclusions: If, as this evidence suggests, a strong driver of adolescent childbirth is the frequency of the occurrence of adolescent childbirth both within the greater community and within a girl's proximal social network, the challenge for intervention strategies is to encourage norms that prevent adolescent childbirth without stigmatising those who have had an adolescent childbirth. Programmatic efforts to counter prevailing norms that limit a woman's role to motherhood, and that support and encourage strong norms for girls' education may play an important role in addressing this situation.

Authors

Bibliography

H.B. Shakya, Darmstadt G., Barker KM, Weeks J., and N. A. Christakis, “Social normative and social network factors associated with adolescent pregnancy: a cross-sectional study of 176 villages in rural Honduras,” Journal of Global Health, 10(1): 1-13 (Jun 2020) DOI: 10.7189/jogh.10.010706

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Social Normative And Social Network Factors Associated With Adolescent Pregnancy