Child Protection Intervention and the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Female Adolescents Ages 13 to 17 Years

Sarah A. Font, Michael Caniglia, Reeve Kennedy, Jennie G. Noll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Importance: Child maltreatment adversely affects health and development, but evidence is needed regarding whether and how Child Protective Services (CPS) interventions may mitigate risks. Objective: To assess whether different forms of CPS intervention are associated with sexual and reproductive health outcomes among female adolescents investigated by CPS for suspected exposure to maltreatment during childhood. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study used linked, longitudinal, statewide administrative data from Wisconsin, including medical assistance and CPS records, to examine the rates and correlates of sexual and reproductive health outcomes (sexual transmitted infections, pregnancies, births, and high-risk sexual behavior) among 9392 female adolescents tracked from age 13 through 17 years who were investigated by CPS for suspected exposure to maltreatment prior to their 13th birthday. The study assesses how these outcomes were associated with types and frequency of CPS involvement and intervention and with adolescent and family demographic characteristics. Participants were female adolescents born from 2000 through 2002 who were investigated by Wisconsin CPS for suspected exposure to maltreatment before 13 years of age and who were covered by medical assistance at least 85% of the time from 13 to 17 years of age. Exposures: Varying levels and intensities of CPS interventions, ranging from a single investigation to adoption from foster care. Main Outcomes and Measures: Dependent variables were pregnancy, birth, sexually transmitted infection, and an aggregate measure of sexual health concerns from 13 to 17 years of age. Primary explanatory variables were the intensity of CPS intervention (investigation only, in-home services, and foster care) and frequency of maltreatment concerns (number of investigations, continued involvement during adolescence). Logistic regression was used to assess the association of CPS measures with differences in sexual health outcomes. Data were analyzed from March 1 to October 12, 2021. Results: This cohort study included 9392 female adolescents, among whom 3156 (33.6%) were born in 2000, 3064 (32.6%) in 2001, and 3173 (33.8%) in 2002; 2501 adolescents [26.6%] were Black, 1568 [16.7%] were Hispanic, 1024 [10.9%] were multiracial, 4024 [42.8%] were White, and 275 [2.9%] were listed as other [which included American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander, or unknown race or ethnicity]). By 18 years of age, sizable proportions of maltreated female adolescents had at least 1 concerning sexual health outcome (23.5%), including diagnoses of gonorrhea, chlamydia, or trichomoniasis (8.4%), pregnancy (11.2%), and parenthood (6.1%). Compared with CPS investigation without formal intervention, foster care was associated with lower odds of pregnancy (adjusted odds ratio, 0.82; 95% C, 0.69-0.98) and live birth (adjusted odds ratio, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.61-0.99). Recurrent and ongoing CPS involvement was associated with adverse sexual health outcomes. Conclusions and Relevance: This cohort study found that maltreated girls face increased risks of adverse sexual health outcomes in adolescence, but CPS interventions were associated with limited influence. More effective interventions are needed to help maltreated girls avoid teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and risky sexual behaviors in adolescence..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-469
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA Pediatrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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