United Kingdom

Underage pregnancies

Key points

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Graph 1: Over time (numbers)

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Graph 2: Over time (rates)

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Graph 3: By social class

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Graph 4: By region

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Why this indicator was originally chosen

One particularly vulnerable group are girls who give birth as teenagers.  Early child-bearing poses both physical and emotional risks for the young mother.  There are also concerns about the risks to the children of young mothers including low school attainment, antisocial behaviour, substance abuse and early sexual activity. Farrington, D Understanding and preventing youth crime, Joseph Rowntree Social Policy Research paper 93, April 1996.  Also, see Gustavsson, N and Segal, E Critical Issues in Child Welfare, Sage Publications, 1994, page 26.  Many young teenage mothers drop out of school early, Gustavsson, N and Segal, E Critical issues in child welfare, Sage Publications, 1994, page 26. and more than half never resume their education, even though they are below the statutory school leaving age. The needs and cares of adolescents, British Paediatric Association, 1985, page 20.

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Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the number of conceptions per year to girls conceiving under the age of 16, with the data shown separately for delivered babies and for abortions.

The second graph shows the same data but in terms of rates per 1,000 girls aged 13 to 15.

The data sources for the first two graphs are ONS conception statistics (England and Wales) and ISD Scotland (Scotland).  The data relates to Great Britain.  English and Welsh conceptions leading to births are counted during the actual year of conception, whilst Scottish conceptions are counted after the birth of the child, which is commonly in the calendar year following conception.  ONS population projections have been used for the number of 15-year-old girls.

The third graph shows, for the latest year, the number of live births by females aged 15 to 19 in each social class as a proportion of the total live births by females of that social class.  It should be noted that this is a very different measure from the first graph: whatever concerns there may be about 18- or 19-year-olds giving birth, such mothers are adults and the sexual intercourse that gave rise to the conception will have been legal.  The data source is ONS child mortality statistics (although the data is no longer publicly available) and the data is for England and Wales.  The analysis is based on the recorded social class of the father of the baby and, as such, it does not include the 25% of births to females aged 15 to 19 which were sole registrations.

The fourth graph shows how the conception rate for girls aged 13 to 15 varies by region, with the data shown separately for delivered babies and for abortions.  The data sources are ONS conception statistics (England and Wales) and ISD Scotland (Scotland).  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is averaged for the latest three years.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The collection of the conception and births statistics is an established process.

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External links

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Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

Overall aim:  Increase the number of children and young people on the path to success

Lead department

Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Official national targets

Reduce the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training by 2 percentage points by 2010.

Reduce the under-18 conception rate by 50% by 2010 as part of a broader strategy to improve sexual health.

Other indicators of progress

Young people participating in positive activities.

Young people frequently using drugs, alcohol or volatile substances.

First-time entrants to the Criminal Justice System aged 10-17.

Previous 2004 targets

Reduce the under-18 conception rate by 50% by 2010 as part of a broader strategy to improve sexual health.

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The numbers

Graphs 1 and 2

 NumbersRate per 1,000 girls aged 13 to 15
Year Births Abortions BirthsAbortions
1994 4,300 4,300    
1995 4,700 4,200    
1996 5,000 4,800 4.8 4.6
1997 4,600 4,500 4.5 4.4
1998 4,500 4,800 4.3 4.6
1999 4,100 4,400 3.9 4.2
2000 4,100 4,700 3.8 4.4
2001 3,800 4,700 3.5 4.4
2002 3,800 4,700 3.5 4.3
2003 3,700 4,900 3.3 4.5
2004 3,600 4,700 3.2 4.3
20053,700 4,900 3.3 4.4
20063,500 5,100 3.2 4.7
20073,500 5,500 3.2 5.1
20083,200 5,100 3.0 4.8
20093,100 4,700 3.0 4.5

Graph 3

Managerial & Professional Intermediate Routine & Manual
1.1% 3.5% 8.3%

Graph 4

Region Rates per 1,000 girls aged 13-15
Births Abortions Total conceptions
East 2.3 3.6 5.9
East Midlands 3.3 4.4 7.7
London 2.7 5.8 8.5
North East 4.6 6.1 10.7
North West 3.5 5.5 9.0
Scotland 3.3 4.7 8.0
South East 2.4 3.9 6.2
South West 2.5 4.1 6.6
Wales 3.6 4.4 8.0
West Midlands 3.3 5.4 8.7
Yorkshire and The Humber 4.0 5.5 9.5

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