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Puerto Rican Teens' Perceptions of Teen Pregnancy and Births in Holyoke, Massachusetts

The high teen birth rate in Holyoke, Massachusetts is a complex problem. The teen birth rate is over five times the state‘s rate and nearly three times the national rate. Since a majority of these births are to Latinas of Puerto Rican descent it is important to include the perceptions of Puerto Rican teens in approaches to prevent teen pregnancy and reduce the birth rate. Although there is a plethora of research on the topic of teen pregnancy and births, there is scarcity in the area of perceptions held by teens of Puerto Rican descent about teen pregnancy and births, future consequences faced by teen parents, contributing and protective factors of teen pregnancy, and potential preventive interventions. This qualitative study used a series of eight focus groups to gather data and examine perceptions held by Puerto Rican teens living in Holyoke about teen pregnancy and birth. The Ecological Model of Health Behavior provided the theoretical framework. Findings indicate that Puerto Rican teens in Holyoke perceive that: teen pregnancy is largely unintentional and a problem with negative outcomes, a lack of information on sexual health and reproduction contributes to this problem, sexual and reproductive health education should be provided to all teens, social factors may either contribute to or prevent teen pregnancy teens, and they want their ideas heard. These findings suggest that teen pregnancy and birth is a complex public health problem in need of a comprehensive approach recognizing that interventions focused on individuals are not likely to have powerful or sustained effects. Rather a combination of interventions addressing individual, interpersonal, community and societal levels are needed for risk reduction and effective behavior change
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