Teenage Pregnancy (1809 words) Essay

Teenage Pregnancy
Although the rate of teenage pregnancy in the United States has declined greatly
within the past few years, it is still an enormous problem that needs to be
addressed. These rates are still higher in the 1990’s than they were only a
decade ago. The United State’s teenage birthrate exceeds that of most other
industrialized nations, even though American teenagers are no more sexually
active than teenagers are in Canada or Europe. (Gormly 348) Recent statistics
concerning the teen birthrates are alarming. About 560,000 teenage girls give
birth each year. Almost one-sixth of all births in the United States are to
teenage women are to teenage women. Eight in ten of these births resulted from
unintended pregnancies. (Gormly 347) By the age of eighteen, one out of four
teenage girls will have become pregnant. (Newman 679) Although the onset of
pregnancy may occur in any teenager, some teens are at higher risk for unplanned
pregnancy than others. Teenagers who become sexually active at an earlier age
are at a greater risk primarily because young teenagers are less likely to use
birthcontrol. African-American and Hispanic teenagers are twice as likely to
give birth as are white teenagers. Whites are more likely to have abortions.

Teenagers who come from poor neighborhoods and attend segregated schools are at
a high risk for pregnancy. Also, teenagers who are doing poorly in school and
have few plans for the future are more likely to become parents than those who
are doing well and have high educationsl and occupational expectations. Although
the rate of teenage pregnancy is higher among low- income African-Americans and
Hispanics, especially those in inner city ghettoes, the number of births to
teenagers is highest among white, nonpoor young women who live in small cities
and towns. (Calhoun 309) In addition to the question of which teenagers become
pregnant, interest is shown in the social consequences of early parenthood.

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Adolescent parents (mostly mothers) may find that they have a “lost or
limited opportunity for education.” (Johnson 4) The higher a woman’s level
of education, the more likely she is to postpone marriage and childbearing.

Adolescents with little schooling are often twice as likely as those with more
education to have a baby bafore their twentieth birthday. Some 58% of young
women in the United States who receive less than a high school education give
birth by the time they are twenty years old, compared with 13% of young women
who complete at least twelve years of schooling. (Tunick 11) Teens who become
pregnant during high school are more likely to drop out. (Calhoun 310) A teen
mother leaves school because she cannot manage the task of caring for a baby and
studying, and a teen father usually chooses a job over school so that he can pay
bills and provide for his child. (Johnson 4) Teen mothers usually have fewer
resources than older mothers because they have had less time to gather savings
or build up their “productivity” through work experience, education,
or training. (Planned Parenthood 1) Because of this, teen mothers are generally
poor and are dependent on government support. (Newman 679) The welfare system is
usually the only support a teen parent will receive. Welfare benefits are higher
for families with absent fathers or dependent children. (Calhoun 309) In some
cases, teen mothers may also receive help like Medicaid, Food Stamps, and
“Aid to Families with Dependent Children” (AFDC). (Newman 679) Besides
educational and financial problems, teenage mothers may face a great deal of
emotional strain and may become very stressed. Teen mothers may have limited
social contacts and friendships because they do not have time for anything other
than their baby. Lack of a social life and time for herself may cause the
teenage mother to become depressed or have severe mental anxiety. (Johnson 5)
Depression may become worse for a teenage mother because she usually does not
know much about child development or about how to care for their children.

Children who are born to teenage mothers usually suffer from poor parenting. (Berk
188) Also, children of teenage parents start being sexually active before their
peers and they are more likely to become teenage parents themselves. These
children may also suffer from financial difficulties similar to that of their
parents. “Children whose mothers are age seventeen or younger are three
times as likely as their peers to be poor, and are likely to stay poor for a
longer period of time.” (Calhoun 311) The children born to teenage mothers
sometimes score lower on development tests than the children of older mothers.

It seems that “rather than declining over time, educational deficits
increase in severity and the children show lower academic achievement, higher
drop out rates, and are more likely to be held back in school.” (Calhoun
310) Teenage pregnancy comes with not only a child, but also many consequences.

Teen mothers face greater health risks than older mothers, such as anemia,
pregnancy induced hypertension, toxemia, premature delivery, cervical trauma,
and even death. Many of these health risks are due to inadequate prenatal care
and support, rather than physical immaturity. The teenage mother is more likely
to be undernourished and suffer premature and prolonged labor. (Calhoun 311) The
death rate from pregnancy complications are much higher among girls who give
birth under age fifteen. (Gormly 347) Poor eating habits, smoking, alcohol and
drugs increase the risk of having a baby with health problems. (Johnson 3) The
younger the teenage mother is, the higher the chances are that she and her baby
will have health problems. This is mainly due to late prenatal care (if any) and
poor nutrition. (Planned Parenthood 1) An adolescent mother and her baby may not
get enough nutrients and, because the mother’s body is not fully mature, she may
have many complications throughout the duration of the pregnancy. (Johnson 4)
Along with the mother, the children of teenage parents too often become part of
a cycle of poor health, school failure, and poverty. Infants born to teenage
mothers are at a high risk of prematurity, fragile health, the need for
intensive care, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and mental retardation. (Johnson 5)
Low birth weight is the most immediate health problem. Babies born to teenagers
are often born too small, too soon. Low birthweight babies may have immature
organ systems (brain, lungs, and heart), difficulty controlling body temperature
and blood sugar levels, and a risk of dying in early infancy that is much higher
than that of normal weight babies (five and one-half pounds or more). (Calhoun
310) “The death rate for babies whose mothers are under fifteen years of
age is double that of babies whose mothers are twenty to thirty years old.”
(Johnson 5) Because of these extremely serious problems, many government, as
well as local, organizations are fighting to stop the occurence of teenage
pregnancy by helping to educate children of the risks involved and the
consequences after. Some research indicates that “the percentage of teenage
birthrates has declined simply because fewer teenagers are having sexual
intercourse and more adolescents are using contraceptives.” Researchers say
that the recent trends in sexual activity and contraceptive use are the result
of a number of factors, including greater emphasis on abstinence, more
conservative attitudes about sex, fear of contracting sexually transmitted
diseases, the popularity of long-lasting birthcontrol methods such as the
contraceptive implant (Norplant) and the injectable (Depo-Provera), and even
because of the economy. In addition, researchers say that young people have
become somewhat more conservative in their views about casual sex and
out-of-wedlock childbearing. Some attribute this change in attitude mainly to
concern about sexually transmitted diseases. Others say that it is because of
the involvement of conservative religious groups in the public debate over
sexual behavior. Many researchers believe that the strong economy and the
increasing availability of jobs at minimum wage have contributed to fewer births
among teenagers. (Donovan 32) Americans, however, seem to be against some of the
methods used by these various organizations to reduce the teen pregnancy rates.

“The most controversial aspect of adolescent pregnancy prevention is the
growing movement to provide teenagers with easy access to contraceptives.”
Most Americans believe that giving teenagers birthcontrol pills and/or condoms
is the same as telling them that early sex is allowed. Some studies that were
conducted in Europe show that some clinics in Europe that distribute
contraceptives to teenagers have the same sexual activity rate as in the United
States. However, in these European studies, it is apparent that teen pregnancy,
childbirth, and abortion rates are much lower. (Berk 190) Teenage pregnancy does
cause many problems for the mother, child, and economy. There are, however, some
incidences where the mother overcomes this down-hill trend and makes a
successful life for her and her child. The outcome of teenage pregnancy turns
out better if the mother goes back to school after she has given birth. (Berk
190) Staying in school may help to prevent teenage mothers from having a second
pregnancy. (Planned Parenthood 2) The outcome is also better if the mother
continues to live with her parents so that they can help to raise the child.

Young, teen mothers need health care for themselves as well as their children.

An adolescent mother also needs a great deal of encouragement to get her to
remain in school. Single teenage mothers also need job training so that they can
get a good job to support themselves and their children. Teen mothers need to be
taught parenting and life-management skills and also need high quality and
affordable daycare for their children. Schools that provide daycare centers on
campus reduce the incidence of teenagers dropping out of school. These school
programs also decrease the likelihood that the teen mother will have more
children. (Berk 189) Because the government has begun to take action in
preventing teen pregnancies, the rate has continued to decline. The large
numbers of young people in America–as well as the values, health, education,
skills they gain–will greatly affect the future of society. Therefore,
increased attention should be given to the well-being of adolescents. Since
greater care is being given to the young people, improvements are already
occuring. The level of education that young people receive is much higher than
that of their parents, and the “expectation that young people should obtain
at least some secondary schooling” is growing. The numbers of women who
have a child during their teen years is declining, and recognizing the impact of
childbearing on education, parents and communities are continuing to discourage
sexual activity, marriage, and motherhood at a young age. (Tunick 13) These
recent trends, if continued, will more than likely educate the adolescent
population about the risks and consequences of teenage pregnancy and reduce the
incicence of teen pregnancy and childbirth altogether.

Berk, Laura E. Child Development. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997.

Calhoun, C. et al. Sociology. New York: Glencoe-McGraw-Hill, 1995. Donovan,
Patricia. “Falling Teen Pregnancy, Birthrates: What’s Behind the
Declines?” The Guttmacher Report. 1.5 (Oct. 1998); 31-34. Gormly, Anne V.

Lifespan Human Development. 6th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1997. Johnson,
Sherry. Teen Pregnancy: Too Much, Too Soon. Waco, TX: Health Edco., 1995.

Newman, Philip R. and Barbara M. Newman. Childhood and Adolescence. Pacific
Grove: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1997. Planned Parenthood Federation of
America. “Pregnancy and Childbearing Among U.S. Teens.” Online.

Internet. 29 Mar. 1999. Available http://plannedparenthood.org/Library/teen-pregnancy/childbearing.htm
Tunick, Barbara. “Issues in Brief: Risks and Realities of Early
Childbearing Worldwide.” The Guttmacher Report. (Feb. 1997); 10-14.


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