The study, based on the B.C. Adolescent Health Survey, which is conducted every five or six years in school districts across the province by the McCreary Centre Society, was published in the December issue of Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. The study took place in 1992, 1998 and 2003-among 30,000 high school students from grades 7-12 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The survey asks teens about sexual health as well as risky behaviours they may deal with. There are also questions on sexual orientation. British Columbia is the only province that tracks trends in sexual health regardless of a teen’s sexual orientation. By using the term “pregnancy involvement” it allowed the researchers to take teens with a different sexual orientation into account.
The University of British Columbia reports:
“Teen pregnancy is declining, but the risk is still higher for LGB youth,” says lead author Elizabeth Saewyc, an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at UBC and Research Director at the McCreary Centre Society. “These results are linked to higher rates of discrimination and harassment among LGB teens at school.”
The results showed that lesbian and bisexual teens who dealt with pregnancy face discrimination double to teens who are heterosexual. Harassment at school is also an issue for LGB teens who have not become pregnant.
While the study deals with British Columbia teens Saewyc says that higher pregnancy rates are higher throughout the world.
“Population studies in other countries have also documented higher rates of teen pregnancy among sexual minority youth. We expect other provinces in Canada would report similar results if they conducted similar surveys.”
Trends in risk behaviours lead to pregnancy is also common due to sexual abuse.
Catherine Jefcoat, director of Lesbian Community Care Project, has some concerns about the study. She was interested though in the fact that the study included LGB teens as possible parents. In most studies these teens are generally shifted to a non-parent status automatically.
The Canadian reports:
“We need to know more about the truth of young queer lesbians’ lives; this adds to the work.” Jefcoat sees a need for more resources given that “It’s incredibly hard to build programs that address young queer female lives when funders [and many segments of the public] are only interested in our ability to make babies and not our sexuality, and that includes straight sexuality.”
This study was given funding by CIHR’s Institute of Population and Public Health and CIHR’s Institute of Gender and Health.