PATHWAYS TO EARLY PREGNANCY BY RACE/ETHNIC AND CLASS LOCATIONS: ADOLESCENT GIRLS' SELF-CONCEPTS AND AMBIVALENCE TOWARDS PREGNANCY
Kendig, Sarah M.
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An important paradox in adolescent pregnancy is that adolescent girls' stronger self-concepts (e.g., higher efficacy and self-esteem) are thought to reduce the likelihood of becoming pregnant: However, minority adolescents, particularly Black girls, have equal or stronger self-concepts than White girls, yet have higher pregnancy and birth rates in adolescence. Thus, the self-concept (or different components of the self) may operate differently for Black and Hispanic girls than White girls, either being positively related or unrelated to pregnancy. One way to disentangle the paradox is to focus on girls' feelings about becoming pregnant and their initial sexual decisions, which serve as more proximate determinants and occur prior to contraceptive behaviors and the occurrence of pregnancy. Based on a theoretical framework grounded in intersectionality and symbolic interactionism and utilizing the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health, N = 5,735), this dissertation examines the influence of adolescent girls' self-concepts, including self-efficacy, perceived mattering, self-esteem and possible selves, on two primary outcomes--feelings of ambivalence towards pregnancy and the transition to first sexual intercourse--and how these relationships vary by race/ethnicity and social class. Statistical methods include discrete-time event history analysis and OLS and logistic regression. Results generally indicate that stronger self-concepts, in particular self-efficacy, mattering, and educational possible selves, are protective against girls' feelings of ambivalence towards pregnancy one year later. Two- and three-way interactions reveal that the relationship between educational expectations and aspirations and ambivalence varies by girls' race and class locations. Educational aspirations are protective for high-SES White girls and low-SES Black girls whereas educational expectations are protective for low-SES White and high-SES Black girls. Girls' perceived mattering is protective against an early transition to first sexual intercourse, particularly for low-SES girls. Ambivalence towards pregnancy is positively related to an early transition to first sexual intercourse and this relationship varies by race/ethnicity and class. This dissertation highlights contingencies by race/ethnic and social class locations and the complexity of the influence of girls' self-concepts in understanding the pathways leading to adolescent fertility.