Population Research and Policy Review 20: 535–563, 2001.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Why the rise in adolescent fertility rates in the Dominican
Republic in the 1990s?
ROBERT J. MAGNANI
, STEPHEN M. SOSLER
& ILENE S. SPEIZER
Tulane University, School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana,
University of Vermont, Department of Sociology, Burlington, VT, USA
Abstract. Despite concern over high pregnancy rates and levels of risk for sexually trans-
mitted infections, adolescent fertility rates in the Dominican Republic have not changed
substantially since the early 1980’s, and actually increased during the early to mid 1990s. The
present study was undertaken to assess the factors contributing to the recent rise in fertility
among Dominican adolescents. The ﬁndings suggest that although contraceptive use among
adolescents and young adults has increased, this has been more than offset by ominous trends
on other determinants of fertility. Among these are declines in mean age at ﬁrst sex and ﬁrst
marriage/union without a commensurate decline in mean age at ﬁrst contraceptive use, and
stubbornly high discontinuation rates for oral contraceptives and condoms. There is also some
evidence that rates of induced abortion among adolescents may have increased, without which
adolescent fertility rates would have been even higher. Demand for children among Dominican
adolescents remains strong, suggesting that efforts to reduce the current high prevalence of
risky sexual behaviors need to inﬂuence social norms in order to be successful.
Keywords: Adolescent fertility, Dominican Republic
Recent years have witnessed a marked increase in the attention being devoted
to adolescent reproductive health issues in countries more or less around the
globe. The increased attention has been prompted by a number of factors,
including concern over the adverse health and social welfare consequences of
adolescent pregnancies, the demographic signiﬁcance of the 10–19 age group
in most developing countries, and the pivotal role that adolescents and young
adults play in the HIV/AIDS epidemic (Bongaarts 1998; Buvinic 1998; Zabin
& Kiragu 1998).
Despite policy and program initiatives to reduce levels of sexual risk-
taking among adolescents and young adults, however, the trends in many
countries have been less than encouraging. This is the case in the Latin
American-Caribbean region, where recent data suggest that adolescent fer-
tility rates in a number countries remain stubbornly high and in some cases