The number of teenage girls giving birth appears to be especially high in U.S. states where a large portion of the population professes conservative religious beliefs, a new study reveals.
The researchers - a father and daughter team, Joseph Strayhorn and Jillian Strayhorn - matched religious values with birth rates for teenage mothers.
They used data from the Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscapes Survey as a measure of religious beliefs. People were deemed to have conservative values if they agreed with a variety of statements such as: "Scripture should be taken literally, word for word" and "There is only one way to interpret the teaching of my religion."
Dr. Strayhorn, who holds positions at Drexel University College of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh, said he was astonished by "the magnitude of the correlation between religiosity and teen birth rate."
In Mississippi, a state with a high level of religiosity, annual figures showed that 68.4 out of every 1,000 teenage girls had given birth. By contrast, in New York State, where religiosity is significantly lower, 25.7 out of every 1,000 teens had a child.
"We conjecture that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself," the researchers wrote in their study published in the journal Reproductive Health.