Researchers from The University of Western Australia are surveying secondary school students to find out what factors put young people at risk of unintended pregnancy and young parenthood.
Dr Rachel Skinner, from UWA’s School of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, said the Teen Relationships Study would involve high school students throughout the Perth metropolitan area.
Dr Skinner, who is also a paediatrician and specialist in adolescent health at Princess Margaret Hospital, said the study findings would give adolescent health care professionals a better understanding of what teenagers actually thought about relationships, teenage pregnancy and parenthood, and the important role of peer, social and cultural influences on early, unplanned pregnancies.
“It will also help provide culturally relevant and appropriate health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teenagers,” she said.
“The teenage birth rate in Australia has dropped significantly over the past 30 years although has changed little in the last 10 years. The national rate of 16 per 1000 births per year hides a much higher pregnancy rate and one of the highest abortion rates in developed countries.”
Dr Skinner said there was limited research on teenage pregnancy in Australia, compared to the rest of the world, and the results of the survey would be of national and international significance.
“This study is unique as it will cover a broad range of topics relevant to teenagers’ lives and how these factors impact on relationships and behaviour,” she said.
“Once we understand what the most important influences on unplanned pregnancy are in the teenage years, we will be able to provide better support to teenagers, through effective sex education classes at school, and culturally, as well as developmentally, appropriate health care services for young people.
“Participation is voluntary but we’d like to see as many local students involved as possible, because the higher the numbers, the more informative the results. We’re also hoping to survey participants from a variety of backgrounds, not only those who may be sexually active, but also those who are not sexually active.
“Once the student and their parent have given consent, they will be asked to complete a confidential online questionnaire.”
The project is a joint collaboration between medical and social science researchers from PMH, King Edward Memorial Hospital, UWA, Curtin University of Technology and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
Dr Rachel Skinner 0418 146 631
(School of Paediatrics and Child Health)