Understanding why teen pregnancies are more common among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth compared to heterosexuals
Awarded 2016
Interdisciplinary Innovation (Phase 1) Grants
Brittany Charlton, ScD, MSc
Boston Children's Hospital

Sexual minority females (i.e., lesbians and bisexuals) are at an increased risk for teen pregnancy and need access to abortion services. This population reports established risk factors for teen pregnancy, such as earlier sexual initiation, more frequently than heterosexuals. It has been suggested, though not empirically examined, that this group of young women may have additional risk factors for teen pregnancy that are unique to sexual minorities; for example, a lesbian may have sex with a man as a way to avoid or cope with stigma about her sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the existing literature on sexual orientation and teen pregnancy is limited and what does exist has been siloed into different fields. Our interdisciplinary team will collaborate across three distinct fields—epidemiology, psychology, and medicine—to plan a research project that will illuminate the mechanisms behind increased rates of teen pregnancy among sexual minorities as well as their experiences with abortion. In the context of the Society for Family Planning’s research priorities, we will measure unintended pregnancy and abortion as well as their impact on health, economic, and policy outcomes by elucidating a well-rounded picture of how these experiences affect sexual minorities. Our work will begin with a qualitative study during this first stage, which will inform a subsequent quantitative study in the next stage; all while ensuring the work translates to improved clinical care.