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Poor Reading Skills in School-Going Girls Tied to Teenage Pregnancy

Update Date: Dec 28, 2012 07:35 AM EST

A new study has tied poor reading skills in school-going girls to them getting pregnant in their teens.

The study conducted by researchers from Philadelphia suggests that seventh grade girls who had trouble reading are more likely to get pregnant in high school than others whose reading skills are average or above average.

The results of the study remained the same even after researchers took into consideration the race and economic status.

"We certainly know that social disadvantages definitely play a part in teen pregnancy risk, and certainly poor educational achievement is one of those factors," Dr. Krishna Upadhya, a reproductive health and teen pregnancy researcher from Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, was quoted as saying by Fox News.

According to Dr. Upadhya, poor academic skills may influence how teens look at their future economic opportunities and that affects the risks they take - although these decisions are not made consciously.

For the study, Dr. Ian Bennett from the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues evaluated the reading scores for 12,339 seventh grade girls from 92 different Philadelphia public schools and tracked them over the next six years, according to the report.

In the next six years of follow-up, apparently 1,616 teenagers had a baby. This included 201 of them who gave birth twice or thrice in this time.

While Hispanic and African-American girls were found to be more likely than white girls to get pregnant, education seemed to play a significant role too.

The study results showed that among the girls who had a below-average reading score, 21 percent went on to have a baby in their teens. Among those who had an average reading score, 12 percent had a baby, and 5 percent of those with good scores were in the same situation.

Teen pregnancies around the world are a major cause of concern because apart from the health risks it poses for the mother and the baby, the problem is also that most of the girls who get pregnant in their teens drop out of school.

According to Upadhya, sex education alone will not solve this problem.

"This is really about adolescent health and development more broadly, so it's really important for us to make sure that kids are in schools and in quality educational programs and that they have opportunities to grow and develop academically and vocationally," she told Reuters Health.

"That is just as important in preventing teen pregnancy as making sure they know where to get condoms."

The study was published in the journal Contraception.

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