A pregnancy pact may be responsible for a dramatic rise in young mothers-to-be at a Massachusetts high school, Time magazine reports.

Seventeen girls at the 1,200-student Gloucester High School had positive pregnancy tests, more than four times the rate the previous year, the magazine said in a story published online Wednesday.

On Thursday, the local newspaper, Gloucester Daily Times, reported the number had risen to 18.

Principal Joseph Sullivan told the news weekly that nearly half the pregnant teens, all age 16 or younger, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together.

Officials at the school in Gloucester, a city about 50 kilometres north of Boston, began looking into the rise in teen mothers after an unusually high number of girls began getting pregnancy tests at the school clinic.

"Some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," said Sullivan.

He also told the magazine that one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless man.

Teens look to motherhood as 'life plan': reporter

Time magazine reporter Kathleen Kingsbury, who wrote the story, said the seaside city has experienced a lot of economic hardship and seems to have many young people without direction.

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'These girls should be out playing and enjoying life at their age. Trying to grow up too fast is so sad.'

--Island Mike

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"They didn't have anyone really instructing them on how to create a life plan," she told CBC Newsworld by telephone.

"Some of them decided that this was going to be their life plan, that they were going to be mothers, and by being mothers, they would be someone."

Some have also blamed Hollywood for glamourizing pregnancy with movies such as Juno and Knocked Up, plus Nickelodeon star Jamie Lynn Spears becoming a mother this week at age 17.

Recently released U.S. statistics show Gloucester High School may not be alone in dealing with a rise in student pregnancies, with the 2006 numbers documenting the first nationwide increase in the teen birth rate in 15 years.

The U.S. has traditionally had the highest teen birth rate of all developed countries.

In Canada, the teen birth rate has fallen dramatically during the past two decades, with the latest available figures, for 2004, showing 13.6 births for every 1,000 teen females compared to the U.S. rate of 41.1, Statistics Canada says.