The risk of pregnancy is greater among non-heterosexual teenagers than among their heterosexual counterparts, according to a new study from researchers at George Mason University and Columbia University. The researchers analyzed data from the 2005, 2007 and 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) in New York City in order to reach their conclusions. The YRBSS is conducted every two years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previous studies had suggested that LGBT teens face a greater risk of pregnancy involvement, but these studies generally relied on either a teenager’s self-reported sexual identity or sexual attraction. For this new study, the researchers hoped to gather a more comprehensive picture of the pregnancy risk that sexual minority students face by analyzing self-reported sexual identity in addition to considering sexual behavior as a critical component of sexual orientation. The researchers restricted their study sample to students who had answered all of the questions being analyzed in the study. They also restricted the sample to students who had engaged in vaginal intercourse, which left them with an overall sample of 4,892 female students and 4,811 male students.
Sexual Orientation and Pregnancy History
In order to measure sexual orientation, the researchers analyzed student responses to two questions: one in which they were asked to identity their sexual identity, and another in which they were asked about the genders of the people with whom they’d had sexual contact. For purposes of the study, the researchers divided the students into female students with only male partners, female students with both male and female partners, male students with only female partners, and male students with female and male partners. In order to measure pregnancy involvement, the students were asked how often they had gotten someone pregnant or had been pregnant themselves. The researchers also examined other factors associated with teen pregnancy risk, including age of first intercourse, number of partners and rape with forced intercourse. More than 85% of the female students in the study identified as heterosexual, and almost 90% reported only male sexual partners. Approximately 96%of the male students identified as heterosexual, and 97% had only had female partners. Approximately 14% of the female students said that they had ever been pregnant, while 11% of the male students had ever gotten someone pregnant.
Pregnancy Risk Far Greater for Sexual Minority Males
Among the female students, 22.6% of those who identified as lesbian or bisexual and 20.1 % of those who had had both male and female sexual partners reported ever having been pregnant. In contrast, only 13.3% of those who identified at heterosexual and 13.7% of those who had only had male sexual partners reported a history of pregnancy. Risk of pregnancy involvement was even more strongly associated with sexual minority male students. Of those who identified as gay or bisexual or who reported both female and male partners, 28.6% and 37.7% respectively had been involved in a pregnancy. Of those who identified as heterosexual, 10% had been involved in a pregnancy, and of those who had only had female sexual partners, 9.9% had been involved in a pregnancy. After adjusting for sexual behaviors (age of first intercourse, number of sexual partners and forced intercourse), the risk of pregnancy among lesbian and bisexual female students was no longer higher than the risk for heterosexual female students. This suggests that these behaviors account for the increased pregnancy risk that sexual minority female teens face. However, gay and bisexual male students were still at greater pregnancy involvement risk than heterosexual male students after sexual behaviors were accounted for, suggesting that additional factors contribute to their greater risk.