Background Research has shown links between earlier age at sexual intercourse and higher sexual risk-taking and substance abuse, as well as between earlier pregnancy and an unhappy childhood. We wanted to investigate the clinical needs and behavioural risk factors of our local cohort of very young people.
Aim To investigate the socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of all under 14-year olds attending sexual and reproductive health services in Glasgow over a 1-year period from 1 August 2009 to 31 July 2010.
Method Data analysis by retrospective case-note review.
Results 81 under 14s attended a total of 142 times over the year. The mean age was 13.2 years; the youngest 11 years old. 70.4% were female. 61.7% were sexually active. 63% attended for contraception, half of these requesting condoms; 14% for a sexual health screen (SHS) and 14% for a pregnancy test (PDT). 32.1% of the whole cohort were already known to social services; for sexually active females this proportion increased to 49%, and for those requesting a PDT it was 58.3%. Substance abuse was documented in 26% of all those who were sexually active, a third of those requesting a PDT, and half of those requesting a SHS. 4/9 sexually active 12-year olds had a history of sexual abuse. Two clients had previous pregnancies reported; one had a sexually transmitted infection diagnosed. Only 24% of sexually active clients were documented as using any contraception, including condoms. Of the 71 clients with documentation, 18.3% had child protection concerns.
Discussion Significant risk factors are evident especially related to substance, sexual and domestic abuse. A large proportion of under-14s attending sexual health services are known to social services suggesting a history of family and/or school problems. The importance of assessing all potential socio-demographic risk in young people is highlighted, especially in those who are sexually active, requesting pregnancy tests or sexual health screens.