Adolescent health: reassessing the passage of adulthood, by Judith Senderowitz

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Looking at early sexual activity from the girl's perspective yields useful insights. , 1992 17380 Guatemala, 1987 24571 Haiti, 1989 15877 Jamaica, 1989 203545 Mexico, 1987 18379 Paraguay, 1987 171271 Peru, 1986 12682 Trinidad and Tobago, 1982 20278Asia Bangladesh, 1989 48 China, 1982 4 India, 1988 41 Indonesia, 1991 18 Korea, Rep. Source: PRB 1992a and 1992b; Ross, Mauldin, and Miller 1993. 1 percent were forced to do so. Their male partners were typically considerably older (Lema 1990b). The girls, asked why they think there is increased sexual activity among adolescents, gave responses that differed notably from the reasons cited by adult health professionals.

Many researchers have reported the phenomenon of "missing females" in Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean (Chen, Huq, and D'Souza 1981; Miller 1981; Zeitlin and others 1982; Das Gupta 1987). But studies in Africa have not reported such ratios; in fact, girls in Africa have been found to have a higher than average nutritional status (Zeitlin and others 1982). Another key area in which girls are discriminated against is education, where more money is spent on males. Yet educating girls translates into higher social returns than educating boys; these returns include improved child health, later first births, fewer unwanted births, increased preference for smaller families, and greater use of health services (Leslie and Gupta 1989; UN 1989; Herz and others 1991).

But a comparison would not be fully enlightening because abortion is almost always performed under unsafe conditions. In the United States, where abortion is performed safely, an assessment showed that early abortion is 24 times safer than childbirth for women age 1519 (Ory 1983; CPO 1990). Consequences of Adolescent Childbearing In the developing world childbirth is much riskier for women of all ages than it is in industrial countries. But it is especially dangerous for young women who have not completed their own development and who may be vulnerable nutritionally and for their fetuses (box 1).

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