Exploring unintended teen pregnancy in rural Missouri
Awarded 2018
Emerging Scholars in Family Planning
Mackenzie Cook, MSW
University of Missouri

Reports show that teen pregnancy rates have been declining in the US for the past two decades. However, this broad brushstroke statistic does not reflect rural America, specifically rural Missouri. Twenty-two rural Missouri counties have teen pregnancy rates well above the national average of 43 per 1,000 and 14 of those counties saw an increase in teen pregnancy rates from 2009 to 2010. Rural communities have unique characteristics that contribute to this high teen pregnancy rate, such as poverty, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, job opportunities, and access to obstetricians and gynecologists. Also, the lack of places to obtain birth control/condoms poses potential problems. Teens may experience shame or guilt if a family member is the cashier checking out their box of condoms or a family friend is the nurse checking them in for their appointment at the doctor’s office to obtain birth control. Rural teen pregnancy has been vastly under researched with the majority of available data being over 20 years old. This exploratory qualitative study aims to identify constructs specific to rural Missouri communities that contribute to these vast numbers of unintended teen pregnancies. The proposed project will include in-depth semi-structured interviews with pregnant or parenting female and male teens and parents of teen parents. These different perspectives of the culture and pregnancy will help to identify key themes and constructs. This research will add to the body of knowledge on teen pregnancy and aid in the development of interventions to reduce teen unintended pregnancy rates in rural areas.