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You are here: Home / MPRC People / Julia Steinberg, Ph.D. / Julia Steinberg Publications / Association Between First Depressive Episode in the Same Year as Sexual Debut and Teenage Pregnancy

Yassaman Vafai, Marie E Thoma, and Julia R Steinberg (In press)

Association Between First Depressive Episode in the Same Year as Sexual Debut and Teenage Pregnancy

Journal of Adolescent Health.


This study aimed to examine whether the timing of depression onset relative to age at sexual debut is associated with teenage pregnancy.


Using data from 1,025 adolescent girls who reported having had sex in the National Comorbidity Survey—Adolescent Supplement, we applied cox proportional hazards models to test whether depression onset before first sex, at the same age as first sex, or after first sex compared with no depression onset was associated with experiencing a first teenage pregnancy. We examined the unadjusted risk by depression status as well as risk adjusted for adolescents' race/ethnicity, marital status, poverty level, whether the adolescent lived in a metropolitan area, living status, age at first sex, parental education, and age of mother when the adolescent was born.


In both unadjusted and adjusted models, we found that adolescents with depression onset at the same age as having initiated sex were at an increased risk of experiencing a teenage pregnancy (unadjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 2.5, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.08–5.96; adjusted HR = 2.7, 95% CI: 1.15–6.34) compared with those with no depression onset. Moreover, compared with those with no depression onset, the risk of pregnancy for girls experiencing depression onset before first sex also increased but was not significant (adjusted HR = 1.5, 95% CI: .82–2.76).


Timing of first depressive episode relative to age at first sexual intercourse plays a critical role in determining the risk of teenage pregnancy. Timely diagnosis and treatment of depression may not only help adolescents' mental well-being but may also help them prevent teenage pregnancy.

Adolescent, Adolescence, Steinberg, Sexual Behaviors, Thoma, Pregnancy, Health in Social Context, Gender, Family, and Social Change
Sexual experience, Teenage pregnancy, Depression onset, Adolescence health
First published online: April 5th, 2020

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