Children having children

UNFPA's annual report on global population Motherhood in Childhood: Facing the Challenge of Adolescent Pregnancy highlights, sexual violence and poverty are major causes of early pregnancy, especially in developing countries.

The World Health Organisation warns that many young women's first sexual experience is "forced", leaving them vulnerable to pregnancy. Reportedly 50 per cent of sexual assaults around the world are against girls below age 16. Forced sex and sexual violence also occur within marriage, and studies show girls who are forced into early marriages are most vulnerable.

Yet, many societies still blame only the girl for getting pregnant, notes UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, "The reality is that adolescent pregnancy is most often not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl's control. It is a consequence of little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care."

As evidence shows, adolescent pregnancy has long-lasting social and physical impacts on the young girls. With adolescents making up 18 per cent of the world's population, motherhood in childhood is an urgent global problem.

At a Glance

7.3 million child mothers a year - 2 million aged under 15, estimated to rise to 3 million a year by 2030

680,000 adolescent births reported in developed countries each year, 50 per cent in the US alone

10 per cent of adolescents in >30 countries had sexual intercourse by 15

15-45 per cent of girls who have had sex reported at least 1 forced sex experience

39,000 child marriages a day

50 million girls at risk of being married before their 15th birthday

90 per cent of adolescent pregnancies are within marriage

1 in 5 adolescent mothers abused during pregnancy

21 per cent experienced intimate-partner violence within 3 months of delivery

13.1 million children born to mothers aged 15-19 annually, 95 per cent in developing countries

3.2 million unsafe abortions each year

70,000 adolescents die from pregnancy and labour complications a year

1 million children born to adolescent mothers die before age 1