Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Volume 39, Number 1, March 2007

Multipartnered Fertility Among Young Women with a Nonmarital First Birth: Prevalence and Risk Factors

By Karen Benjamin Guzzo and Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr.

CONTEXT: Although early nonmarital fertility has been well studied, less attention has been paid to the subsequent fertility of young unwed mothers. In particular, the frequency with which these young women have subsequent births with a new partner (multipartnered fertility) and the risk factors associated with doing so are unknown.

METHODS: The proportion of young women who had a first birth and the proportion who subsequently had a child with a new partner were determined among a sample of participants in Waves 1 (1995) and 3 (2001–2002) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Multivariate analyses identified characteristics associated with multipartnered fertility.

RESULTS: By Wave 3, when these young women were 19–25 years old, 29% had had a first birth, and 3% had had births with multiple partners. Among women with a nonmarital first birth, 14% subsequently had a birth with another partner, and 41% with two or more children had had multiple partners. The prevalence of multipartnered fertility differed sharply by race and ethnicity. Most new-partner births occurred outside of marriage, especially among black women. Respondents who had no contact with their partner after informing him of their first pregnancy or who had not wanted to have a child with him had an increased likelihood of multipartnered fertility.

CONCLUSIONS: The context in which first births occur sets the stage for subsequent childbearing. Programs that help women avoid having births in unfavorable circumstances, such as in early and unstable relationships, may reduce the prevalence of multipartnered fertility.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2007, 39(1):29–38


Karen Benjamin Guzzo is visiting assistant professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA. Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., is Zellerbach Family Professor, Department of Sociology, and research associate, Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.