1990 Volume 8, p11-41
The Latin American literature on adolescent sexual and reproductive behavior is reviewed to provide professionals in the area with more relevant findings. The data demonstrates that sexually active adolescents of both gender are increasing and starting sexual activity at an earlier age. For example in Panama one out of every 5 births is from an adolescent 15-19 with 25% of these out of wedlock; in Chile, 44% of live births are illegitimate. Factors that are affecting these changes are the media, peer groups and other sources of information competing with parental discipline (TV, movies, music). In spite of the high incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, the majority of pregnancies among adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean take place in marriage with the average age of marriage at 20, with variation between the rural and urban areas. In 1978 the total fertility rate of El Salvador's urban areas was 3.3 as against 8.4 in the rural. Young girls in developing countries have few options for education, retaining their virginity and marriage, so when presented with the change early on, they marry and get pregnant. Cuba remains the only Latin American Country where abortion is offered (up to 10 weeks) within the context of health services; while illegal abortion in the majority of Latin American countries continues to increase. The proportion of complications due to abortion for those under 20 ranges from 11-20% in the region. Illegal abortions has become a major cause of maternal mortality constituting from 12-53% of deaths among the majority of women 15-24. Significant data is given for pregnancy, factors that influence knowledge and use of contraception, and available sex education programs, an extensive bibliography in these areas is included.
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