Social networks and educational attainment among adolescents experiencing pregnancy


Humberstone, Elizabeth (2018). Social networks and educational attainment among adolescents experiencing pregnancy. 2018 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Pregnant adolescents are a population at risk of dropout and have been found to complete fewer years of education than peers. Pregnant girls’ social experience in school may be a factor in their likelihood to persist, as social integration is thought to buffer dropout risk. Pregnant teens have been found to have fewer friends than their peers; yet, the academic ramifications of these social differences have yet to be studied. This study asks whether friendship networks are associated with the relationship between adolescent pregnancy and educational attainment. Using multi-level models and propensity score matching, it specifically explores associations between high school graduation (reported in Wave 3) and friendships, friendship reciprocation and network centrality (reported in the In-School survey) reported prior to pregnancy. Girls were categorized as ‘never pregnant’, ‘pregnant before the In-School survey’ and ‘pregnant after the In-School survey’ by comparing the most recent pregnancy dates reported during Wave 1 and/or Wave 2 to the date the In-School survey was administered. Wave 1 and/or 2 pregnancy dates were used since they provide pregnancy start dates (as opposed to pregnancy end dates available in Waves 3 and 4) as educational and/or social challenges related to pregnancy likely start early in a pregnancy. Wave 1 and/or Wave 2 data was used to retain participants who were seniors in Wave 1. The study sample is limited to participants in the ‘pregnant after the In-School survey’ group and their propensity score matched ‘never pregnant’ peers. Inclusion of girls pregnant prior to the In-School survey presents possible selection bias, as the survey does not capture pregnant girls who dropped out prior to the In-school survey. The post-survey pregnant group (n=274) captures girls prior to possible pregnancy-related dropout. An indicator variable for girls reporting multiple pregnancies (n=27) was included in case multiple pregnancy dates were not adequately captured. Any girls with insufficient pregnancy date data were categorized as ‘unknown pregnant’ and excluded from the sample. Overall, the study finds having more in-nomination friendships (i.e. peers who report a participant as a friend) prior to pregnancy to be associated with a reduced risk of high school dropout compared to more socially isolated pregnant teens. It additionally finds a marginally significant relationship between out-nomination friendships (i.e. friends reported by a participant) and network centrality and the association between pregnancy and dropout. This work suggests social isolation and social connections may be a factor in the educational careers of girls who become pregnant. These findings further suggest that school environment factors, such as one’s social climate, may relate to educational success of pregnant teens.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2018 Add Health Users Conference


Humberstone, Elizabeth

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID