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OSU-Tulsa professor seeks causes of high teen pregnancy rates in effort to reduce them

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017

Dr. Karina Shreffler, professor of human development and family science, discusses research with a student.

In a state with one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation, Dr. Karina Shreffler, OSU-Tulsa professor of human development and family science, is leading a National Institutes of Health research project to find out the best way to reduce it.

Despite overall declines, Oklahoma still ranks second highest in the nation, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

“Teen pregnancy has an enormous negative impact on the educational, social, health and economic well-being of the adolescent, the baby and society in general,” Shreffler said. “Research is critical for establishing evidence-based strategies to decrease teen pregnancy.”

Shreffler was named the recipient of the 2017 OSU-Tulsa President’s Fellows Faculty Research Award for her groundbreaking research on teen mothers. The award recognizes exceptional faculty research and provides funding to help them continue their work.

She is enrolling pregnant women in the NIH study and will observe them throughout pregnancy and after the birth of their child.

The faculty research award provides a $15,000 prize, which Shreffler will use to broaden the scope of her project by looking at factors that affect a father’s involvement and commitment to his child.

“There remains a paucity of research on young fathers of children born to teen mothers,” she said. “A better understanding of young fathers’ needs, obstacles and successes will allow for a more successful approach to enhancing the father-child relationship for this high-risk population.”

The results of the study will provide information needed to develop more effective prevention and intervention programs so that more babies in Tulsa are born healthy, she said.

As a second-generation OSU graduate, Shreffler believes strongly in the university’s land-grant mission of community outreach.

“We work closely with community organizations so that we can help strengthen Oklahoma families. We find out from community organizations what research they need to have done so that we can meet those needs,” she said.

Shreffler is principal investigator for a number of large research projects, including the $1.9 million HATCH: Holistic Assessment of Tulsa Children’s Health project funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Exposures and Adolescent Risky Behaviors study funded by a $29,000 endowment grant.

A prolific author of journal articles, Shreffler’s research interests also include reproductive health, family demography, work and family and fertility trends.

“Beyond just the trends, I am interested in how people are impacted by societal factors in terms of their well-being,” Shreffler said. “I am drawn to human development and family science because of its emphasis on resilience and orientation toward helping people reach their fullest potential.”

WATCH: Dr. Shreffler shares how OSU-Tulsa helps local families


Media Contact: Aaron Campbell | 918-594-8046 |