Past Projects

Title:   A Comparative Exploration of Social Policy Relating to Teenage Pregnancy in Finland and Scotland

ESRC funded Doctoral research

October 1996 – January 2001

The purpose of this research was to comparatively explore a selection of policies relating to teenage pregnancy in Finland and Scotland. Although much comparative research had explored teenage pregnancy and policy relating to it in England with other countries, very little work had explored either the policy situation within Scotland or comparatively explored Scottish policy responses to teenage pregnancy with other countries. Although the trends in teenage pregnancy rates are similar between England and Scotland, there are noted policy differences between the two countries that warrant further exploration of the situation particular to Scotland.

Finland presented an interesting comparison for Scotland, in particular due to a number of important constants that exist including; the sexual behaviour rates of young people, the legal age of heterosexual consent and similar ages of first intercourse, and yet considerably lower rates of teenage pregnancy. Between the 1970s and 1980s the rate of teenage pregnancy declined in both Finland and Scotland. Since that time Finland has witnessed further decline, whilst the rate in Scotland has remained relatively unchanged.

Utilising a variety of primary and secondary data including in-depth interviews with key personnel at three levels of policy development and implementation: government, local authority/ municipality and schools, as well as policy documentation from both countries, this research has located, mapped and comparatively analysed three areas of policy relating to teenage pregnancy: sex education, sexual health and education.

Key findings
The findings of this research illustrate that policy developed in Finland since the 1970s has taken a pragmatic approach to the prevention of unintended teenage pregnancy, combining sex education provision in a range of core subjects throughout the curriculum at the school level with a national system of school nurses located in school-based clinics. Additionally, the Finnish education system was structured in such a way from 1970 so as to offer a high level of vocational and academic choice at the school level and actively encourage a high level of continuation beyond the age of sixteen.

In relation to policy development in Scotland, the findings of this research illustrate that whilst the foundations for successful future policy development are now present, policy developed prior to the mid-1990s failed to meet the needs of young people in Scotland in relation to the provision of sex education, sexual health services and educational choice at the school level beyond academically-orientated examinations.

Since the mid-1990s there have been changes in the direction of policy within the areas under exploration. Whilst a level of complacency appears to have set in with regard to the lower level of teenage abortion in Finland, the opposite has been occurring in Scotland, with raised awareness of the sexual health rights and needs of young people being placed at the forefront of policy development. As this thesis has detailed, the various changes have the potential to influence the rates of teenage pregnancy in both countries, negatively in Finland and positively in Scotland.

In addition to highlighting potential policy options to aid in the future reduction of unintended teenage pregnancy in Scotland, a better understanding of the relationship that each area of policy has to teenage pregnancy has also been developed within this thesis. The findings contribute to the on-going debate concerning a number of important areas, first, the provision of ‘effective’ sex education, second, the necessity to base sexual health services on the needs of young people and third, the importance that continued education post-16 can play as an indirect means to delaying pregnancy and parenthood.

The findings have been disseminated via health and education professional local, national and international networks; conferences and seminars and other academic outlets.

Papers already presented on this research and an online copy of the report can be found on the Conferences & Seminar Presentations and Esteem Indicators pages.

The majority of the main thesis can be accessed through the PDF links below:

Title and Abstract
Table of Contents
List of Figures
List of Tables
Chapter One: International Trends - Data from Europe
Chapter Two: Teenage Pregnancy and Social Policy - A review of the literature
Chapter Three: Comparative Methods and Methodology
Chapter Four: The National Policy Framework
Chapter Five: Policy Implementation at the Local Level
Chapter Six: Similarities and Differences within National and
Local Level Policy in Scotland and Finland

Chapter Seven: Policy change and future prospects
Chapter Eight: Conclusions, Policy Recommendations & Future Research Directions

For further details about the project please contact:

Dr Alison Hosie
Tel: 07931 164111

 back to index of past projects


Research History & Past Projects

Esteem Indicators

Selected Publications

Conference & Seminar Presentations

Teaching Experience


 top of page