Why are teenagers in the United States less likely to breast-feed than older women?

by Christine E. Peterson, Julie DaVanzo

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Teenage mothers are much less likely than older mothers to breastfeed their infants. The lower breastfeeding rate among teenagers aged 16-19, compared with women aged 20-29, is due almost entirely to the fact that teenage mothers tend to have characteristics associated with a lower likelihood of breastfeeding among all women, such as lower education level, lower income, and being unmarried. Even so, nearly 40 percent of the difference between teenage mothers aged 15 or less and mothers aged 20-29 remains unexplained by these factors and may be due to developmental aspects of adolescence, such as greater egocentricity and greater concern about body image.

Originally published in: Demography, Vol. 29, no. 3, August 1992, pp. 431-450.

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