Young women, sex and choices

Duration:

April 2008 to September 2013

PSI researchers:


Lesley Hoggart

Background, summary and aims

Dr. Lesley Hoggart from the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) and Angela Birch from Creating Solutions UK (CSUK) have recently been commissioned to undertake research into under-18 abortions, and repeat abortions, in London by the Young London Matters (YLM) Teenage Pregnancy Work-strand Group of the Government Office for London.

Purpose

This research project will address two questions:

What are the underlying factors associated with the disproportionately high proportion of under-18 conceptions that end in abortion in London?

What are the underlying factors associated with the disproportionately high under-18 repeat abortion rate in London?

Secondary questions

  • What are young women’s experiences of local sexual health services, including abortion referral and termination services?
  • What are the views of different young women on the following issues: abortion, teenage pregnancy, sexual health, sex and relationships education (including abortion), negotiation of safer sex, accessing services?
  • How do young women (that have experienced at least one abortion) explain their decision-making processes around sexual behaviour; and deciding whether to terminate a confirmed pregnancy?
  • What do local service providers think about local abortion provision, access issues, and beliefs about high abortion proportions or repeat abortion rates?
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  • What are the different social, cultural and religious values and attitudes surrounding abortion, teenage pregnancy and sexual health?

Background

London’s high proportion of abortions and high repeat abortions for under-18s suggests high numbers of unwanted and unplanned conceptions. If these conceptions could be prevented there would be considerable benefits to young women in not having to go through a medical or surgical procedure, and cost savings to health services in reducing the number of abortions taking place. London as a region would also make strides towards achieving the 2010 target of reducing under-18 conception rates. In commissioning this research, the Young London Matters Teenage Pregnancy Work-Strand group aims to improve the sexual health and personal relationships of young Londoners. It is hoped that the resulting research report will be used to inform future commissioning and provision of services (contraception and sexual health, targeted youth support services, extended services, sex and relationships education).

Research methodology

This research project will use qualitative and quantitative techniques and will be conducted in two stages:

A London-wide mapping exercise. This mapping will include:

Analysis of conception and abortion rates alongside a number of other variables (deprivation; ethnicity).

A survey of commissioning practices (to examine relevant commissioning policies and procedures).

A survey of local teenage pregnancy co-ordinators (to examine local access to and availability of, abortion services; local availability of contraceptive and sexual health services; Liaison between abortion and contraceptive services including post-abortion follow-up and support).

Focus groups with local teenage pregnancy coordinators (to explore their views on factors that might contribute towards the disproportionately high rates).

Selection of a smaller number of boroughs for in-depth qualitative work. These are selected from the boroughs with the highest rates of repeat abortions. This part of the work will include:

  • Up to ten interviews with local young women who have had an abortion. This work will need to target young women from communities who are statistically more likely to have one or more abortion. The aim of this element of the project will be to explore their values and behaviour surrounding abortion, teenage pregnancy, sexual health, negotiation of safer sex, accessing services; and explanations for individual abortion decision-making.
  • Interviews with the teenage pregnancy coordinator, and with one service provider responsible for referring young women for terminations. The aim of this element of the work will be to understand local service provision, access issues, and beliefs about high abortion proportions or repeat abortion rates.
  • Two or three focus groups in local schools. The aim of this element of work will be to explore cultural values and attitudes surrounding abortion, teenage pregnancy, sexual health, negotiation of safer sex, accessing services.