This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Family Influences on Risky Sexual Behaviors, Pregnancy, and Abortion Decisions in Swiss Adolescents




Browder, Sara

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Teenage pregnancy remains a social problem. In 1997, almost 15 million adolescents gave birth (Whan, Nissen & Ahlberg, 2005). Although Switzerland has a relatively low teenage pregnancy rate (5.2 births per 1,000 youth ages 15-19 are reported; United Nations, 2004), the negative personal and social consequences subsequently remain the same for all youth who become pregnant. Based on a national probability sample of Swiss youth, the current study examined the salience of family structure and the parent-adolescent relationship for risky sexual behaviors, pregnancy, and abortion decisions. It was expected that adolescents from single parent families with relatively lower quality parent adolescent relationships would be at greatest risk for engaging in risky sexual behaviors, for becoming pregnant, and most likely to seek an abortion. Participants for this study were a randomly selected national probability sample of N = 8740 Swiss adolescent males and females, ages 16 to 20 (Jeannin et al., 2005). Only n = 4,014 female youth were included for the current analyses; of these, n = 119 (3%) reported pregnancy and 56.3% of pregnant teens reported an abortion. The study also tested a number of known correlates and covariates, including SES, language region (German, French and Italian) immigration status (native Swiss, 1st generation and 2nd generation immigrants), and whether youth completed a sexual education curriculum. Data analyses included correlations, oneway ANOVAs, and multiple or logistic regression analyses. Findings provided mixed support for the salience of family structure and the parent-adolescent relationship quality across the three dependent measures. Both family structure and the family process measure were important predictors of risky sexual behaviors. However, only family structure predicted teenage pregnancy. In fact, adolescents from single parent homes were four times more likely to report a pregnancy than adolescents from two parent homes. Finally, neither family structure nor family process was a significant predictor of the abortion decision. Additional interesting findings were made based on the analysis of covariates. Second generation and 1st generation immigrant youth were more likely to report a pregnancy compared to native Swiss youth (OR=3.3, OR=1.9); however, pregnancy risk for the two groups did not differ. On abortion decisions, youth from the French speaking region were 3.7 times more likely to seek an abortion than adolescents from the German speaking one. Also, 1st generation immigrant youth were 3.6 times more likely than native Swiss youth to seek an abortion. No difference was found between youth from the two immigrant groups. Findings are discussed in terms of implications for Swiss youth, but also for youth growing in other similar industrialized countries.