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Developmental pathways from child maltreatment to adolescent pregnancy: A multiple mediational model

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 January 2022

Justin Russotti*
Affiliation:
Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, Rochester, USA
Sarah A. Font
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology and Criminology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, USA
Sheree L. Toth
Affiliation:
Mt. Hope Family Center, University of Rochester, Rochester, USA
Jennie G. Noll
Affiliation:
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, USA
*
Corresponding author: Justin Russotti, email: justin_russotti@urmc.rochester.edu

Abstract

Adolescent pregnancy (AP) is a significant public health issue. Child maltreatment (CM) represents an established risk factor, yet little is known about the explanatory mechanisms linking the phenomena. Informed by developmental theory, this study prospectively tested seven multi-level, indirect pathways that could plausibly explain the relationship between CM and AP: (1) substance use (polysubstance use and frequency); (2) sexual risk behavior; (3) depressive symptoms; (4) posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms; (5) cognitive dysregulation; (6) pregnancy desire and difficulty expectancies; and (7) age at menarche. Data came from a prospective, longitudinal cohort study of 469 ethnically diverse, nulliparous adolescent females, designed to examine the impact of substantiated CM on reproductive outcomes such as pregnancy and childbirth (265 maltreated and 204 demographically matched comparison adolescents). A multiple-mediator structural equation model was conducted to simultaneously test multiple indirect effects while accounting for confounding variables. Maltreatment had an indirect effect on pregnancy via substance use and higher pregnancy desire/lower perceived difficulty. Findings represent a step towards elucidating pathways linking CM with AP. Recommendations are offered to prevent pregnancy by addressing the pregnancy-specific mechanisms that are part of the maltreatment sequelae.

Type
Regular Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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