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Relationship between School Dropout and Teen Pregnancy among Rural South African Young Women


Rosenberg, Molly Sears; Pettifor, Audrey E.; Miller, William C.; Thirumurthy, Harsha; Emch, Michael E.; Afolabi, Sulaimon A.; Kahn, Kathleen; Collinson, Mark A.; & Tollman, Stephen M. (2015). Relationship between School Dropout and Teen Pregnancy among Rural South African Young Women. International Journal of Epidemiology, 44(3), 928-936. PMCID: PMC4521125


BACKGROUND: Sexual activity may be less likely to occur during periods of school enrolment because of the structured and supervised environment provided, the education obtained and the safer peer networks encountered while enrolled. We examined whether school enrolment was associated with teen pregnancy in South Africa.
METHODS: Using longitudinal demographic surveillance data from the rural Agincourt sub-district, we reconstructed the school enrolment status from 2000 through 2011 for 15 457 young women aged 12-18 years and linked them to the estimated conception date for each pregnancy during this time. We examined the effect of time-varying school enrolment on teen pregnancy using a Cox proportional hazard model, adjusting for: age; calendar year; household socioeconomic status; household size; and gender, educational attainment and employment of household head. A secondary analysis compared the incidence of pregnancy among school enrolees by calendar time: school term vs school holiday.
RESULTS: School enrolment was associated with lower teen pregnancy rates [adjusted hazard ratio (95% confidence interval): 0.57 (0.50, 0.65)].This association was robust to potential misclassification of school enrolment. For those enrolled in school, pregnancy occurred less commonly during school term than during school holidays [incidence rate ratio (95% confidence interval): 0.90 (0.78, 1.04)].
CONCLUSIONS: Young women who drop out of school may be at higher risk for teen pregnancy and could likely benefit from receipt of accessible and high quality sexual health services. Preventive interventions designed to keep young women in school or addressing the underlying causes of dropout may also help reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

International Journal of Epidemiology


Rosenberg, Molly Sears
Pettifor, Audrey E.
Miller, William C.
Thirumurthy, Harsha
Emch, Michael E.
Afolabi, Sulaimon A.
Kahn, Kathleen
Collinson, Mark A.
Tollman, Stephen M.