Pregnancy and parenthood in young people: second progress report

Update on actions within the Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy.


Data on Scotland's teenage pregnancy rates (i.e. conceptions) are published annually. The latest data published by ISD show that;

Teenage pregnancy rates (conceptions)

Pregnancies in young people aged under 20 are at their lowest level since reporting began in 1994.

Figure 1: Teenage pregnancy by age group at conception, 1994 - 2016

Figure 1: Teenage pregnancy by age group at conception, 1994-2016

In 2016, there were 4,622 pregnancies in young women aged under 20.

  • 66% were in those aged 18 and 19
  • 5% were in those aged under 16

Figure 2: Teenage pregnancies by outcome, 2016

Figure 2: Teenage pregnancies by outcome, 2016

Of the 4,622 conceptions in young women aged under 20 in 2016, 43% ended in termination (increasing to 47% in those aged under 18 and 55% in those aged under 16), although the latest ISD statistics show that there has been a significant decline in the number of terminations in the under 20s over the last decade[1]. Whilst there are many different reasons why women will choose to have an abortion, it is often used as a proxy measure for unintended pregnancy. If we examine the data in this light, it seems that a proportion of women under 20 are not intending to fall pregnant.

This means support for young people in making informed choices about their future, including pregnancy and parenthood, continues to be vital. The Strategy makes clear the most effective, evidence based interventions for supporting young people around pregnancy and parenthood, national progress against which is set out in the report. It is essential that all partners work together to ensure that locally and nationally we are supporting young people to make their own, informed choices about their futures, including pregnancy and parenthood, whether that be now, in the future, or not at all.

Teenage pregnancy links to inequality

The absolute gap in teenage pregnancy rates between the most and least deprived is narrowing. Rates of pregnancy have reduced across all levels of deprivation in recent years, with those in the most deprived areas falling more.

However, those living in areas of highest deprivation still have pregnancy rates five times higher than those in the least deprived.

Figure 3: Teenage pregnancy by deprivation area, 2007 - 2016

Figure 3: Teenage pregnancy by deprivation area, 2007-2016

Poverty rates for children with young mothers are higher than average

Children from households with a mother aged under 25 have particularly high relative and absolute poverty rates. This is likely to be for a range of factors - for example, less labour market experience or potential interruptions to education.

Figure 4: Child Poverty Rates - Young Mothers*

Figure 4: Child Poverty Rates - Young Mothers

* Young mothers are considered to be those aged under 25. Rates are taken on an After Housing Costs basis and refer to estimated levels in 2014-17, persistent poverty relates to 2011-15.

Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan

The Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan[2] was published in March 2018 and contains the actions that the Scottish Government will take to tackle child poverty between 2018 and 2022.

The Plan includes a focus on 'priority families', which includes young mothers. All of the actions committed will be taken forward with these groups in mind.

Our impact assessments show that certain actions will be of particular benefit to young mothers, including: investment in intensive employment support for parents; work to encourage payment of the 'real' Living Wage, expansion to funded Early Learning and Childcare and the new Best Start Grant.

The progress report covering the first year (2018-19) of implementation of the plan has been published

Actions to support young mothers are explored further in the section on parenthood in young people.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Studies of have found that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are linked to an increased likelihood of early sex and teenage pregnancy. Compared to people with no ACEs, people with four or more ACEs have been found to be six times more likely to have early sex (before age 16) and six times more likely to have had or caused unintended teenage pregnancy (

The Scottish Government has committed to preventing and mitigating the negative impacts of ACEs, and is taking a broad approach to addressing a wide range of childhood adversities that can impact on healthy development. This include the 10 key adversities[3] commonly explored in ACE surveys and also the wider range of childhood adversities that can impact on healthy development (e.g. bereavement/loss, bullying, community violence, homelessness); as well as the interaction with societal inequality (e.g. poverty, gender inequality, discrimination by ethnicity or sexual orientation) and how these influence the levels of childhood adversity experienced and people's ability to recover.

The 2018/19 Programme for Government[4] (pages 84-85) set out four key areas for action the Government is taking forward to better prevent and respond to ACEs:

1. Providing inter-generational support for parents, families and children to prevent ACEs (including actions such as support for perinatal and infant mental health support, expanding Family Nurse Partnership (FNP), increasing health visitor numbers, tackling child poverty to support low income families)

2. Reducing the negative impact of ACEs for children and young people (including the provision of school counselling services, supporting children affected by domestic abuse, supporting contact between parents in prison and children, Attainment Scotland Fund helping schools to delivery health and wellbeing support for children and young people).

3. Developing adversity and trauma-informed workforce and services (including implementing the National Trauma Training Programme and Education Scotland work to support nurture and trauma-informed schools).

4. Increasing societal awareness and supporting action across communities (including awareness raising of children's rights and funds such as the Families and Communities Fund and CashBack for Communities).



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