Background:The rates of teenage pregnancy in the UK are relatively high. Although early entry to parenthood can be a positive experience, most studies find large adverse effects on long term outcomes for the mother, child and father, in addition to being costly for the NHS. This is why the government launched its Teenage Pregnancy Strategy in 1999. However, there is growing evidence that teenage pregnancy might be mainly an indicator of disadvantage which is the underlying cause of the negative outcomes.
Methods: A systematic literature review was undertaken of studies which used a UK dataset to quantify any long term outcomes of a teenage birth upon the mother, father or child. Studies were included if they used appropriate methods to isolate the causal effect of early parenthood. The databases searched included Medline, Cochrane, EconLit and Web of Science.
Results: Six studies were identified by the review; five studies considered the mother’s socioeconomic outcomes, one study reported the child’s outcomes, and no studies met the inclusion criteria for the father’s outcomes. The studies suggested that early motherhood accounts for relatively few of the negative long term socioeconomic outcomes and it is predominantly an indicator of a disadvantaged family background.
Conclusion: Limited evidence is available to understand the long term outcomes associated with teenage birth within the UK for the mother, father and child. Current econometric studies suggest that effective interventions to prevent teenage pregnancies will not eradicate the poorer long term socioeconomic outcomes often associated with early motherhood. Thus policy should focus on reducing initial disadvantage in addition to preventing teenage pregnancy. Additional econometric analyses around the mothers’, fathers’ and children’s long term socioeconomic and health-related outcomes would be valuable.