Does Having Low Self-Esteem Put Teen Girls At Risk For Pregnancy?

Throughout this season of “16 and Pregnant,” we’ve witnessed plenty of unhealthy relationships and their negative effects on teen moms. It made us wonder: What ever attracted these girls to such unsupportive, F-bomb dropping dudes in the first place?

Low self-esteem might explain some of it. “Girls with low self-esteem often base their self-worth on being in a romantic relationship, despite the quality [of it],” says Richard Shadick, Ph.D., director of the counseling center at Pace University. “Girls who do not value themselves tend to accept poor treatment from boyfriends, in part, because they have few supports in their life.”

Perhaps if young women felt better about themselves, they’d be more inclined to cut off ties with bad-tempered guys, but that can be a challenging task if they’re not confident enough to speak up.

“Girls receive contradictory and conflicting messages about how vocal they should be about their needs and desires, and how they might live independent lives,” says Emilie Zaslow, Ph.D., an assistant professor of communication studies at Pace. “They don’t break off their emotionally abusive relationships because although they see images of powerful women in media, they don’t generally see strategies for gaining, sustaining and using power effectively.”

Teenage pregnancy happens for a variety of reasons, but the doctors we spoke with say self-esteem is definitely influential. “If it’s missing, then this puts girls at risk, particularity if they are receiving pressure to have unprotected sex,” adds Shadick.

Of course, being ‘at risk’ doesn’t mean your hands are tied. Staying informed and making smart decisions can make a huge difference! For teen pregnancy statistics and helpful resources, check out the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy website.

+ Do you think there’s a connection between low self-esteem and teen pregnancy? Sound off in the comments!