Sexual orientation, sexual behaviors, and pregnancy among American Indian adolescents

Elizabeth M. Saewyc, Carol L. Skay, Linda H. Bearinger, Robert Wm Blum, Michael D. Resnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Purpose: A recent study found a disproportionate number of pregnancies among Euro-American lesbian and bisexual adolescents compared to heterosexual peers. American Indian adolescents have reported higher prevalence of gay/lesbian/bisexual orientations than Euro-Americans; do they also report higher prevalence of pregnancy? Methods: The study assessed prevalence of teen pregnancy and related factors by sexual orientation among sexually experienced, reservation-based American Indian adolescent males (n = 2056) and females (n = 1693) who participated in a national school-based survey in 1991. Self-reported orientation was classified as heterosexual, gay/lesbian/bisexual, and 'unsure' of orientation. Results: Gay/bisexual males were more likely than other males to report early heterosexual intercourse (<14 years), more consistent contraception, and a higher prevalence of abuse and running away (p < 0.05 to p < 0.0001). Likewise, lesbian/bisexual females were more likely to report early onset of heterosexual intercourse, more frequent intercourse, and running away. Sexual or physical abuse did not vary by orientation for females. Prevalence of pregnancy also did not vary by orientation (males, 18.6% gay/bisexual vs. 10.4% 'unsure' vs. 11.8% heterosexual; females, 25.0% lesbian/bisexual vs. 22.1% 'unsure' vs. 21.9% heterosexual). For lesbian/bisexual females, no variables were significantly associated with pregnancy history; for 'unsure' females, pregnancy was associated with contraceptive frequency and early onset of heterosexual activity. For heterosexual females, age, intercourse frequency, and physical abuse were associated. For gay/bisexual males, intercourse frequency, ineffective contraception, and physical abuse were associated with involvement in a pregnancy; for 'unsure' and heterosexual males, most items except ineffective contraception were related to pregnancy involvement history. Conclusions: Although prevalence of pregnancy is similar, findings show group differences in associated risk factors by sexual orientation. Interventions to reduce pregnancy among American Indian adolescents should include assessment of sexual orientation and behavioral risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-247
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1998


  • Adolescence
  • American Indian
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual orientation


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