JOURNAL ARTICLE

Sexual intercourse, abuse and pregnancy among adolescent women: does sexual orientation make a difference?

E M Saewyc, L H Bearinger, R W Blum, M D Resnick
Family Planning Perspectives 1999, 31 (3): 127-31
10379429

CONTEXT: Although a limited amount of research has retrospectively explored the childhood and adolescent heterosexual experiences of lesbians, little is known about the prevalence of heterosexual behavior and related risk factors or about pregnancy histories among lesbian and bisexual teenagers.

METHODS: A secondary analysis was conducted using responses from a subsample of 3,816 students who completed the 1987 Minnesota Adolescent Health Survey. Behaviors, risk factors and pregnancy histories were compared among adolescents who identified themselves as lesbian or bisexual, as unsure of their sexual orientation and as heterosexual.

RESULTS: Overall, bisexual or lesbian respondents were about as likely as heterosexual women ever to have had intercourse (33% and 29%, respectively), but they had a significantly higher prevalence of pregnancy (12%) and physical or sexual abuse (19-22%) than heterosexual or unsure adolescents. Among sexually experienced respondents, bisexual or lesbian and heterosexual women reported greater use of ineffective contraceptives (12-15% of those who used a method) than unsure adolescents (9%); bisexual or lesbian respondents were the most likely to have frequent intercourse (22%, compared with 15-17% of the other groups). In the sample overall, among those who were sexually experienced and among those who had ever been pregnant, bisexual or lesbian women were the most likely to have engaged in prostitution during the previous year.

CONCLUSIONS: Providers of reproductive health care and family planning services should not assume that pregnant teenagers are heterosexual or that adolescents who say they are bisexual, lesbian or unsure of their sexual orientation are not in need of family planning counseling. Further research should explore the interactions between adolescent sexual identity development and sexual risk behaviors.

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