Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Australia's children, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 08 October 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Australia's children. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children
Australia's children. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 February 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia's children [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Oct. 8]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Australia's children, viewed 8 October 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-children
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25/02/22 – In the Data section, updated data related to teenage mothers are presented in Data tables: Australia’s children 2022 - Health. The web report text was last updated in December 2019.
Motherhood for women under the age of 20 can be a positive and maturing experience. For many young people, becoming a parent can have a transformative impact, particularly with changing unhealthy behaviours and relationships (AHRC 2017; Rhys Price-Robertson 2010).
Recent findings also show some positive birth outcomes for teenage mothers compared with mothers aged 20–24 with teenage mothers:
However, mothers who give birth under the age of 20 are also a vulnerable population group, who may experience lower education and reduced employment. This may increase the risk of socioeconomic disadvantage for both child and mother (Marino et al. 2016). Children of vulnerable young parents are also at risk of becoming teenage parents themselves (Gaudie et al. 2010; Marino et al. 2016).
Teenage motherhood is associated with a number of poorer health and wellbeing outcomes for both mother and baby. In the short-term, babies born to teenage mothers are at greater risk of being born pre-term, with a low birthweight, stillbirth and neonatal death (AIHW 2018; Marino et al. 2016). Children of teenage mothers may go on to have behavioural, emotional and cognitive disadvantages (Marino et al. 2016). Depression is more prevalent among pregnant teenagers than adult pregnant women or teenagers in general, and teenage motherhood can have a long-lasting effect on mental health (Marino et al. 2016).
Data on teenage mothers is sourced from the National Perinatal Data Collection (NPDC). The NPDC is a national population-based cross-sectional collection of data on pregnancy and childbirth. The data are based on births reported to the perinatal data collection in each state and territory. Rates are calculated using denominators based on the ABS estimated resident population of females aged 15–19.
In 2017, around 6,600 babies were live-born to teenage mothers—a rate of 9.2 live births per 1,000 females aged 15–19. Births to teenage mothers made up 2.2% of all live births.
Births to teenage mothers decreased by more than 40% between 2006 and 2017 from 17.6 to 9.2 per 1,000 females aged 15–19 (Figure 1).
Chart: AIHW. Source: AIHW NPDC.
In Australia, this decrease has been attributed to greater personal control over fertility rather than an increase in terminations (Marino et al. 2016).
In the 10 years to 2015, there was also been a change in the age distribution of teenage mothers. The proportion of mothers aged 16 decreased from 8.7% to 6.9% while the proportion of mothers aged 19 increased from 42% to 46% (AIHW 2018).
Teenage birth rates differ across population groups (Figure 2). In 2017, teenage mothers aged 15–19 were more likely to:
Differences were also evident between Indigenous teenage mothers (46.4 births per 1,000) and non-Indigenous women (7.1 per 1,000). However, Indigenous teenage birth rates decreased considerably from 70 births per 1,000 Indigenous women aged 15–19 in 2006, to 46 births per 1,000 in 2017. See also Indigenous children.
Note that not all these categories are mutually exclusive. It is likely that some of these associated factors overlap.
Internationally, Australia’s birth rate for mothers aged 15–19 was lower than the national Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average, according to the most recent OECD report on births to teenage mothers (Figure 3). Australia’s birth rate for these mothers (11.9 births per 1,000) was lower than the OECD average of 36 countries (12.4 births per 1,000). Korea had the lowest teenage birth rate (1.3 births per 1,000) while Mexico had the highest (66 per 1,000) (OECD 2018).
Chart: AIHW. Source: OECD Family Database.
The teenage birth rate includes only live births to teenage mothers, and is therefore lower than the pregnancy rate, which would include stillbirths, miscarriages and terminations.
National data are not currently available on termination, with South Australia and Western Australia the only states to have data publicly available. Pregnancy termination rates in these states have declined since the late 1990s (Hutchinson & Ballestas 2018, SA Health 2018). In South Australia, the rate decreased from 23.6 to 8.3 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 between 2001 and 2016, respectively. While in Western Australia, the rate decreased from 23.1 to 9.1 for the same age group between 2002 and 2015, respectively.
For more information on:
AHRC (Australian Human Rights Commission) 2017. Children’s rights report 2017: National Children’s Commissioner. Sydney: AHRC.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2018. Teenage mothers in Australia 2015. Cat. no. PER 93. Canberra: AIHW.
Gaudie J, Mitrou F, Lawrence D, Stanley F, Silburn S & Zubrick S 2010. Antecedents of teenage pregnancy from a 14-year follow-up study using data linkage. BMC Public Health 10(1):63.
Hutchinson M & Ballestas T 2018. Induced abortions in Western Australia 2013–2015. Fifth report of the Western Australian Abortion Notification System. Perth: Department of Health, Western Australia. Viewed 20 September 2019.
Marino JL, Lewis LN, Bateson D, Hickey M & Skinner SR 2016. Teenage mothers. Australian Family Physician 45:712–17. Viewed 21 February, 2019.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) 2018. OECD Family Database. Paris: OECD. Viewed 21 February 2019.
Rhys Price-Robertson R 2010. Supporting young parents. Child Family Community Australia Practice Sheet—November 2010. Melbourne: AIFS. Viewed 7 May 2019.
SA Health 2018. Pregnancy outcome in South Australia 2016. Adelaide: SA Health. Viewed 21 February 2019.
For more information, see Methods.
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