Although teenage pregnancies in North America have declined considerably within the past two years, teenage pregnancies continue to be a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Today's rates are still higher in 1990 than they were only a decade ago. In North America, teenage birth rates exceed that of most other industrialised nations, even though North American teenagers are no more sexually active than are teenagers in Europe or other parts of the world (Gormly, 1997).
Recent statistics concerning teen birth rates are alarming. About 500,000 North American teenage girls give birth each year. Almost one-sixth of all births in North America are to teenage women. Eight out of ten of these births result from unintended pregnancies (Gormly, 1997). By the age of 18, one out of four teenage girls will become pregnant (Newman, 1997). Although pregnancy can occur to any teenager, some teens are at a higher risk for unplanned pregnancies than others.
Teenagers who become sexually active at an earlier age are at a greater risk, primarily because these teenagers are less likely to use birth control. Black and Hispanic teenagers are twice as likely to give birth as are white teenagers whereas whites girls are more likely to have abortions. In addition, teenagers who come from poor neighbourhoods and attend segregated schools are at a higher risk for pregnancy. Also, teenagers who are doing poorly in school and who have few future plans are more likely, than those who are doing well and have high educational and occupational expectations, to become parents. Although the rate of teenage pregnancy is higher among low income Blacks and Hispanics, especially those in inner city ghettos, the number of births to teenagers is highest for white, non-poor young women who live in small cities and towns (Calhoun,