Teenage pregnancy and motherhood: How might evolutionary theory inform policy?

Sarah E Johns, Thomas E Dickens, Helen T Clegg

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Teenage pregnancy and motherhood are considered to be pressing social concerns and, in the majority of developed countries, are often viewed as problems in need of solutions. While a number of factors are associated with teenage motherhood, the underlying causes remain elusive. Despite a lack of consensus, policy aimed at ‘solving’ teenage motherhood is typically based on these proposed proximate correlates; addressing these, rather than the cause. Recent appraisals of this approach suggest that it may not be working effectively, if at all, and policy makers might be in need of some novel approaches. This paper discusses how policy decisions concerning reproductive timing may benefit from the perspective provided by evolutionary life-history theory, and why policy ought to take into account the hypothesis that teenage motherhood is the outcome of an adaptive response of an evolved reproductive strategy to conditions of risk and uncertainty; that having children at an earlier age may promote lineage survival when personal future is uncertain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages16
JournalEvolution, Mind and Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Teenage pregnancy and motherhood: How might evolutionary theory inform policy?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this