Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Mary Lou Gutierrez


Teenage pregnancy is both a social and a public health problem in the United States, with approximately 750,000 young women between the ages of 15 and 19 becoming pregnant each year. In addition, teen pregnancy is more prevalent in the African American (15%) and Hispanic (14%) communities than it is in White communities (5%). The purpose of this study was to identify risk factors contributing to teen pregnancy among racially diverse teenagers 15 to 19 years of age living in the rural south. This study, guided by social cognitive theory, used a quantitative, cross-sectional research design to determine whether living environment, educational resources, and access to healthcare impact risk of teenage pregnancy. A quantitative survey assessed factors such as sex-related attitudes, parent/peer communication, living environment, and educational attainment. Two primary research questions and 8 related hypotheses were formulated for investigation. Using binary logistic regression, the data in this study revealed that an increase in positive environmental factors (household income and parental education) and an increase in positive personal factors (parental/peer communication, teen's academic achievement, and attitudes toward sex) decreased negative behaviors (risks of teen pregnancy). This study may promote positive social change by providing information on relevant social and educational factors to those responsible for the design of comprehensive pregnancy prevention programs that target at-risk teenagers. Provision of comprehensive social and health services to teenage parents and their children may help to reduce rates of first-time and repeat teenage pregnancies and thus prevent the negative social consequences of these pregnancies.