Teen Pregnancy: The Case for Prevention Essay

Teenage pregnancy leads to adverse social and health outcomes and the results persist throughout the adult life of an individual. It hence creates a social and economic disadvantage at a young age leading to further disturbances later. Almost one-third of young women in the United States become pregnant during their pregnancy and more than 80 of teen pregnancies are unintended and unintentional (Womenshealthchannel, 2008). The teen pregnancy rate in the US is declining but it is still considered a major cause of continued poverty because unwed school-going mothers drop out of school. The chain continues because the children of unwed mothers are underweight and less likely to perform well in school. The causes and consequences of teen pregnancy have been studied by different authors and a new theoretical concept has been suggested here.

Fletcher et al (2008) consider the school as the most important institution in the lives of most children and hence they carried out a longitudinal study of twelve secondary schools. These were observational studies and they found that values and culture, including the student-teacher relationship at school influenced the students. This study did not take into account the student’s family environment, the socio-economic status, the neighborhood effects, and the parent attitudes. These too have a very strong impact on the teenagers’ attitude towards sex and sexual relationship. According to Fletcher et al (2008) unplanned teenage pregnancy occurs when there is poor school ethos, school disaffection, truancy, poor employment prospects and low expectations. Added to these are the knowledge, skills, norms and attitude towards sexual health and sexual behavior. When teenagers have an attitude to work there is motivation to avoid pregnancy. The study found that when the school ethos is poor, they receive less support from teachers, are less motivated to study. They have fewer positive expectations from education and low employment prospects. They then consider teenage pregnancy and early parenthood as alternative markers of transition to adulthood. The consequences are undernourished children due to mother being in poverty as she has been a school drop-out.

Lawlor and Shaw (2002) find a large proportion of teenage pregnancies are unintended. They too argue that early motherhood can be delayed if young women are provided with education, income-earning potential and empowerment. The study by Lawlor and Shaw considered the health problems that teenage pregnancy could give rise to and they conclude that teenage pregnancy is not associated with problems in later life. This was an observational study from the medical point of view.

Economic and social disadvantages are the causes as well as the consequences of teenage pregnancy, according to Feijoo (1999). However, the Americans generally believe that educational, social, medical, and economic difficulties experienced by adolescent mothers and their children are responsible for teenage pregnancy. Feijoo contends that teenage pregnancy can be controlled if sexual education including the abstinence and contraception is provided at schools. The students must be provided with information about protecting themselves against unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In addition, youth development program help to make the youth feel needed, loved and cared for, which would make them increase their self-worth, thereby easing their transition to adulthood.

Kegler et al (2003) agree that youth development program is a promising approach to teen pregnancy prevention. Their study also found that positive peer influence, involvement in organized activities, strong relationship with parents and other adults, and aspirations for the future can help reduce sexual risk behavior in adolescents. School-based programs that allow for reflection have been found to reduce teenage sexual tendencies. Involvement in extra-curricular activities and volunteer service in the community reduces sexual risk behavior. Gallagher (1999) has used the contraceptive and premature sexuality as paradigms to understand teen pregnancy. He argues that the contraceptive and oral pill failure rate among the poor and the working class single teens is much higher than the middle-class teens. Nevertheless research suggests that it is not possible to conclude the unintended pregnancy occurs solely because of contraceptive failure rates. Gallagher also found that knowledge on the subject does not change sexual or contraceptive behavior. Even improving access to contraception does not increase its use. Teen pregnancy has been associated with a lack of guidance from adults and the culture which reduce the motivation for girls to avoid pregnancy. Single-parent families and proportion of working mothers increase the incidence of sexual activities in such families as there is lack of close supervision and guidance. This paper studied several literatures and all focused on explaining to the teenagers that teen pregnancy was against their self interest. The author argues that teenagers are in a better position to understand what their interest is and hence this does not make them understand the consequences of teen pregnancy.

Feijoo derived conclusions about teenage pregnancy based on the amounts spent by the federal government on the welfare of the people and in support to families that began with a birth to a teen while Kegler et al (2003) derived conclusions based on the assessment of teen pregnancy prevention projects using youth development programs as the intervention. They interviewed 100 key informants that were representative of organizations that served or were located in priority neighborhoods. The topics included the problems faced and the past problem-solving efforts undertaken. Focus group interviews were also taken on peer group influence and norms and attitudes about teen pregnancy. This model centered on the neighborhood efforts and influence on the teenagers where the teens expressed what they liked or disliked about the neighborhood. The lifestyle of the teens was probed into based on the assumption that free time induces involvement in sexual risk behavior. A report by Gallagher (1999) argued that single adult mothers are more like the teen mothers. There is a very minor age difference between the two and the circumstances between the two are very similar. The author hence argues that marriage as an institution has failed and women prefer to be single unwed mothers then being locked into marriage. It is hence preferable to become a mother at 18 or 19 and this is not different from being a mother in early twenty’s.

The models that different studies above have used for deriving the consequences and causes of teen pregnancy, differs. Two of the studies have focused on the school ethos and proper guidance while another discusses the family guidance. Another study discusses the importance of neighborhood and peer influence. One study has used the amount spent by the federal government as a basis to infer about teen pregnancy. School is not the only arena where a child receives guidance. In fact much before the school come the family. Since there is a trend in the US to be unwed young mothers, the family bonding is missing as single mothers are most likely to be working full time which means lack of supervision. It has been found by studies that despite access to contraceptives, teen pregnancy cannot be controlled. Again, another study suggests that since women do not want to tie themselves in a marriage, they prefer to be single unwed young mothers. Thus to understand the causes and consequences of teen pregnancy, the theoretical model should concentrate on trying to understand the mind set of the teens themselves. The social and economic environment in which a teen has grown up leaves an impression on the mind which is likely to have the strongest influence in the decision-making process. Information, guidance and supervision have significant roles to play in teen pregnancy. If a teen mother is from low socio-economic background, it is quite likely that the child would continue to remain in that same status. Hence the model that would help to get better insight would a comprehensive study that takes into account both the family and the school environment.

The measurement criteria in some studies have been through interviews and focus groups while some have concentrated on literature written by others. Interviewing the neighborhood and the youth associations would give limited information. There may be many that are not connected to the neighborhood activities or community projects but need guidance. It is also likely that volunteers do not give the right picture or try to give a positive image of their efforts in trying to educate the teens. Hence focus groups and interviews is not enough as a measure to understand the situation.

To better understand the causes and consequences of teen pregnancy both the mother and the child should be interviewed, which would help to better understand the situation. In addition, the friends of the teen mothers should be interviewed. This should focus on teen pregnancy between the ages of 13-15 as this is the most vulnerable age. To understand the consequences, women who had become teen mothers and who are now themselves in their mid-30s should be studied. This would help to understand the situation after 20 years of pregnancy and how it affects the individual and the society. Interviewing current teen mothers would not be of much benefit. To explain to the teenagers the consequences, examples have to be drawn from those teen mothers who are now in mid-30s. This would also give the right picture of the consequences and causes of teen pregnancy. The consequences of teenage pregnancy can be disastrous for the society as the children that come in are undernourished and continue to remain in poverty.

References:

Feijoo, A N 1999, ‘Teenage Pregnancy, The Case for Prevention’, Reviewed online 28 October 2008, from

Fletcher, A et al 2008, ‘Interventions addressing the social determinants of teenage pregnancy’, Health Education, vol. 108, no. 1, pp. 29-39.

Gallagher, M 1999, ‘The Age of Unwed Mothers. Is teen Pregnancy the Problem?’ Institure for American Values, Reviewed online 28 October 2008, from

Kelger, M et al 2003, ‘As asset based youth development model for preventing teen pregnancy: illustrations from the HEART of OKC project’, Health Education, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 131-144.

Lawlor, D A & Shaw, M 2002, ‘Too much too young? Teenage pregnancy is not a public health problem’, International Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 31, pp. 552-554

Womenshealthchannel 2008, ‘Teen Pregnancy’, Reviewed online 28 October 2008, from

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