Building and Sustaining Community Partnerships for Teen Pregnancy Prevention: A Working Paper. The Need for Comprehensive Programs


Most investigators concerned with adolescent pregnancy have concluded that broad-based, comprehensive prevention efforts are the best approach to intervention in this complex problem.(5) Kirby notes that because the factors underlying adolescent sexual and contraceptive behavior, pregnancy, and childbearing are numerous and complex, each with a small effect, it will be difficult to reduce adolescent pregnancy a great deal. Biological antecedents cannot be changed. Many other factors are related to social conditions that will be difficult to affect. Thus, he concludes that effective programs must focus on multiple factors, including beliefs, perceived norms, skills and intentions, and environmental factors that interfere with intentions to be abstinent or use contraception. However, to have a greater effect programs must address antecedents related to poverty and social disorganization.(6) Many current programs have serious shortcomings: they do not address many of the risk factors, they focus on a single aspect of prevention, they are brief and superficial, and they are often too late to have a large effect, especially on high-risk groups.

While more research and evaluation is certainly needed, some programs have shown promise. Increasingly, programs serving youth recognize that meaningful strategies require community- wide, coherent, and comprehensive intervention strategies in order to be effective.

Partnerships are most appropriate

  • when they address social problems that have multi-faceted causes, and
  • when the most promising strategies require influence and resources beyond the scope of any single organization or sector.

Teen pregnancy prevention, it has often been suggested, is such a complex phenomenon, with so many, varied factors underlying it and an array of risky behaviors associated with it, that only a concerted effort on behalf of entire communities is likely to have a significant impact. Because the problem is so complex and no one intervention or sector can "solve" this problem alone, strategic alliances and/or partnerships among multiple sectors are seen by many as essential.