Teenage Pregnancy in Ireland Essay
According to Inglis, the historical background of Irish sexuality is a relatively and rarely discussed topic. Most of the past studies have avoided sex and sexuality issues and have focused instead on fertility, the role of the Catholic Church as well as the sex scandals facing the church, and censorship. The lack of interest on sexuality in the Irish academia is blamed on the dominance of the Catholic Church in academic areas such as psychology, philosophy and sociology. This has created a serious gap in understanding of the sexuality nature of the Irish society considering the fact that studies such as Scheper-Hughes, (1999) affirmed that the Irish were repressed sexually.
The teenage pregnancy is a contentious issue in Ireland, and the problem is especially pronounced in County Louth which is one of smallest counties in Ireland with the highest rate of teenage pregnancies (Crisis Pregnancy Agency, 2007). Many society members view most cases of teenage pregnancy as a burden and a barrier to the achievement of the necessary education status and employment standards. However, there is also a growing acceptance of non-standard family models. This research will aim to explore the attitudes of the society toward teenage pregnancy. The literature review will comprehensively discuss the problem of teenage pregnancy, teenage birth rates in Ireland, risk factors and health risks of teenage pregnancies to provide the theoretical aspects of the research on teenage pregnancy as well as the society attitudes toward young mothers. According to Keller (2002), the rate of teenage pregnancies in both County Louth and Dublin is the same i.e. 6.8pc. However, the statistics from the 2002 research could be currently different due to the fact that the difference in the sizes of the two cities leads to a difference in the social norms. Being larger than County Lough, the teenage birth rates could be higher in Dublin because the sexual activities will be more rampant, the catholic culture will have less impact, and the multicultural impact is high.
Teenage Birth Rates in Ireland
The 2010 statistics from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) indicates that teenage pregnancy in Ireland has been reduced in significant levels and it led to birth of 2, 043 babies for the mothers under the age of 20 (CSO, 2010). This was a decline from the 2006 statistics, when 2352 cases represented 0.4 of the total births among women that year (Crisis Pregnancy Agency, 2007). Majority of the teenage births are noted among girl between eighteen to nineteen years old. For example, according to the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (2007) report, seventy-six per cent of the births recorded in 2006 were associated with girls less than 20 years old. Prior to the changes observed in 2006, the teenage pregnancy had remained constant since 1975.
Problem of Teenage Pregnancy
The debates on teenage pregnancy are prevalent in the society institutions such as media, politics, schools and churches. Teenage pregnancy is any pregnancy occurring below 20 years of age. According to Duncan (2007), teenage pregnancy is associated with numerous negative impacts that make it a social burden. Teenage pregnancy does not only cause financial problems to the parent and their children, but also to the general society. According to the National Campaign Research (2011) global teenage pregnancy cases cost the public several billion dollars annually. Teenage parent and their children are also associated with adverse behavioural outcomes. Some of the outcomes suggested by Pogarsky et al (2006) include incarceration, drug taking, fighting and abandoning school. They are also associated with enhanced risk for health challenges related to the child birth and the pregnancy. Chedraui (2008) attributes the increased risk of child mistreatment to the stressful experiences that the teenage parents experience due to their unpreparedness to child bearing roles.
The problems associated with teenage pregnancy are also barriers to the achievement of higher levels of education status and employment requirements among the involved teenagers. Somers and Surmann (2004) claim that teenage pregnancy is viewed as a wider societal problem in relation to the numerous uncertainties associated with its occurrence. They affirm that evidence from immense literature and society discussions on teenage pregnancy support the assumption that teenage pregnancy and parenting leads to future life full of socio-economic problems for the young parents. The seriousness of the issue on the societal perspective is affirmed by Kiely (2012) who posits that the issue has been ranked by the industrialised nations as a key policy area due to its negative impacts on the social health of the society. Commenting on the causes of the problem, Coleman and Cater (2006) assert that teenagers are not to blame for the problem, the defect emanates from the socio-economic institutions that victimises and blames them. The problem could not exist if the societal institutions do not discriminate or victimise teenagers. This is a contradiction to the notion that the teenage behaviour is to blame for the problem. Coleman and Cater (2006) further suggest that the social institutions should be transformed to make sure that they support the efforts geared towards promoting the welfare of the teenagers.
Risk Factors Associated to Teenage Pregnancy
Numerous risk factors have been linked with the prevalence of teen pregnancy. According to Driscoll et al. (2005) and Crisis Pregnancy Agency (2007) risk factors include involvement in early sexual activities, poor use of contraceptives, poverty, and poor performance in school that leads to dropping out of school, depression and low esteem. Smith and Elander (2006), Driscoll et al. (2005) and Crisis Pregnancy Agency (2007) report provides the general causes of teenage pregnancy. According to Driscoll et al (2005) the rise in teenage pregnancy cases is associated with low education levels because most of the uneducated teenage are highly vulnerable to be sexually active before seventeen years of age. Crisis Pregnancy Agency (2007) also noted that refusal to use contraceptives among the sexually active teenagers increased the incidences of teenage pregnancy. Low economic status also contributes significantly to the increased rates of teenage pregnancy because young people cannot afford the contraception devices, career or education prospects. Additionally, poverty increases their vulnerability to the peer influence that increases the probability of becoming pregnant (Smith and Elander, 2006). More specific causes as provided by Duncan (2007) were ignorance, low expectations and confusion. United States is the leading country in the incidences related to the teenage pregnancy globally, with the rates viewed as double that of other industrialised states (Carlson and Tanner, 2006). In fact, the rates are high to the extent that 40 per cent of the women in the United States become pregnant before attaining twenty years of age. In Europe, the United Kingdom leads in the issues related to teenage pregnancy, with the global ratings placing it second to the United States (Smith and Elander, 2006).
Health Risks of Teenage Pregnancies
In addition to the social risks associated with teenage childbearing, there are other risks involved. Chedraui (2008) asserts that teenage pregnancies are associated with health risks to both mothers and babies. For instance, most of the caesarean section delivery and labour complications have been identified in teenagers more than in the adults (Chedraui, 2008). The results of the study affirm that the negative perception that the public holds against teenage pregnancy could be related to the negative health impacts that teenage motherhood is associated with. Children born out teenage pregnancies are also vulnerable to adverse health outcome compared to other children. According to Hoggart and Phillips (2011), teenage mothers face a high risk of preterm labour. This leads to the complications that may adversely compromise the future health and normal development of the baby. Such children are exposed to risks related to low birth weight and neonatal death (Hoggart and Phillips, 2011; Chedraui 2008). This affirms that teenage pregnancy is a problem that should be avoided if possible because the negative effects are paramount.
Teenage Pregnancy and Education
Pillow (2006) posits that teenage mothers suffer numerous educational problems. The teen parents do not receive the educational standards they are supposed to receive and are normally associated with high school drop-out rates. The children of young mothers also suffer academically and normally register poor results compared to the children of mature parents (Hoggart and Phillips, 2011). Additionally, the educational levels that the teenage mothers attain are related to the circle of friends and the type of friends they establish. Pogarsky et al. (2006) assert that the educational levels of teenage mothers are directly correlated to the adverse behavioural outcomes such as gang involvement and engagement in drug abuse.
Another issue is sex education. Efficient sex education can assist in curtailing the increased incidences of teenage pregnancy. Somers and Surmann (2004) have found out that early and comprehensive sex education helps in reducing the incidences of teen pregnancies. The study made the conclusion based on the comparison between those receiving sex educations during early life ages with those who were educated on sex issues during their adult ages. Those educated at early age registered low incidences of teenage pregnancy. This study seems to agree with the fact that teenage pregnancy is a societal problem that can be solved by early education. However, Somers and Surmann (2004) do not offer the strategies that can be applied in minimising the negative impacts of adolescent pregnancy.
Teenage Pregnancy and Politics
The transformation of the western states from collectivism to individualism due to industrialisation and modernisation has created a risky environment for teenagers (Carabine, 2007). This has led to the erosion of the notions on gender, family, class and sexuality. According to Carabine (2007), this has provided a wide experience on how people should conduct their lives, granting individuals the responsibility of caring for their welfare. Therefore, the teenage pregnancy issues have been blamed wholly on the individuals involved. This amounts to stigma because the incidences leading to the rise in teenage pregnancy can emanate from other causes such as social or financial problems. Although the current individualistic status of the society cannot be changed, the society is obliged to modify it so that the issues related to teenagers can be handled keenly through collaborating with all the society members. Carabine (2007) proposes that government’s intervention is necessary to transform the condition. This can be done through including the necessary amendments that addresses the problem of teenage pregnancy. The political influence can also be applied in transforming the education sector to accommodate issues related to teenage pregnancy.
The effect of the political configuration is also affirmed by Firth (2010) who claims that the British society views the teenage pregnancy as a social problem that has significant effect on teenage mothers and their children. The fathers of such children are viewed as incapable of catering for the welfare of their children. Firth (2010) supports his claims through reference to the strategies by the government. For example, the labour’s adolescent pregnancy strategy stigmatises the adolescent parents as uneducated and careless people that are not mindful of their future. However, other studies have disapproved the claims associating teenage pregnancy and the negative social outcomes (Pett, 2010). After interviewing teenage mothers, Pett (2010), reports that the responses indicated that giving birth motivated them to pursue their life dreams and goals. This is because they dedicate their efforts towards improving the future welfare of their children. It was also noted that most of the teenage fathers yearned to maintain contact with their children. Pett’s argument underscores the research’s hypothesis that majority of the society members possess negative attitude towards teenage mothers. However, the two studies (Firth, 2010 and Pett, 2010) indicate that the political orientation of a country contributes significantly in changing the views of on teenage pregnancy issue.
Contrary to the political orientation that plays a prominent role in determining the public’s attitude towards pregnancy, parenting determines the adolescent’s choices in respect to sexual activities. Parents play an important role in determining their children’s sexual attitude’s and the decisions related to relationship morals. Carlson and Tanner (2006) asserts that parents are significantly responsible for changing the behaviours of their children in relation to reducing the high teenage birth rates among the current societal dispensation. This study affirms that teenagers refer their parents as the greatest determinants of their course of behaviour in relation to sexual activities i.e. the parents wield significant influence on the teenager’s decision related to abstinence or engagement in sexual activities. According to Carlson and Tanner’ (2006), the four parental styles that wield varied degree on the teenage sexual behaviours include neglectful, indulgent, authoritarian and authoritative. Eisenberg (2006) defines authoritative parents as restrictive but highly concerned on the general welfare of their children. Indulgent parents are described as warm but permissive while neglectful parents are described as the worst form of parent that a teenager can have, more so if they are pregnant, because they are hostile and permissive. After conducting a research on the four forms of parents and their views on teenage pregnancy, Eisenberg (2006) affirms that the four parenting groups believe that they have no influence on their children’s behaviours. However, they affirmed that they expect their children to behave in a dignified and moral way. This contradicts the results of the earlier study by Carlson and Tanner’ (2006) that proposed that parenting had a significant influence on children’s behaviour. However, the results by Eisenberg (2006) could be viewed as inaccurate because the study focused on parents only; the teen’s views were not included. Inclusion of the teens could have provided more insight on their views towards underage pregnancies.
Teenagers Attitudes towards Pregnancy
Schwarz and O’Sullivan (2007) undertook a qualitative study that addressed the attitude of the teenagers towards pregnancy. Majority of the participants affirmed their support to other colleagues who had become pregnant at a tender age or decided to have baby. However, this is not an indication that they would engage in behaviours that may cause early pregnancy if one is not married. They also confirmed the existence of stigmatisation and negative attitudes form the society towards pregnant teenage. This supports the research hypothesis that most of the societal attitudes are negative towards teenage pregnancy cases. However, stigmatisation was also noted among some of the participants. Some participants viewed young mothers as people deficient of the required morals, their reasoning being that upholding morals prevents people from teenagers from acquiring pregnancy. The societal negative perception does not only emanate from the old people, especially parents, as Carlson and Tanner (2006) assert; Schwarz and O’Sullivan (2007) confirm of the negative attitudes emanating the teenagers. Additionally, Coleman and Cater (2006) further affirms the negative attitudes of the teenage pregnancy in a study whose participants agreed that teenage mothers lacked a sense of self-control or concern on the future welfare of their lives. Most of the participants in the study viewed teenage pregnancy as an impediment towards achievement of the life goals due to the negative impacts on education as well as relationship prospects (Schwarz and O’Sullivan, 2007).
The effect of socioeconomic status can be understood through focus on factors affecting the teenage pregnancy cases in terms of area and family. This is because the upper class respondents differently perceive teenage pregnancy than working class ones. Teenage pregnancy has been associated with economic deprivation in many countries – in the developed as well as in the developing (Smith and Elander, 2006). Some of the risk factors identified by Smith and Elander’s study include early sexual activity, life expectations, attitudes towards abortion, their view towards the use of contraceptives, their perception towards love and the local sexual health services. The research yearned to identify how socio-economic deprivation interacted with the six factors. Interactions between the effects caused by area as well as family deprivation were also analysed by the study. This involved the inclusion of participants from both affluent and deprived areas. The study showed that a deprived area had more risk factors compared to a deprived family. This is because the comparative analysis of the rates of interaction among the two regions found out that the interactive level of the area is higher than that of the family. The respondents from a deprived area associated the occurrence of teenage pregnancy with negativity of higher magnitude compared to those from affluent areas.
The results focusing on the female teenagers from a more deprived area showed that they engaged in more sexual activities compared to those from non-deprived areas (Smith and Elander, 2006). This supports the hypothesis that attitudes of participants from deprived area will vary from attitudes of participants from non-deprived area. The reason for the disparity was suggested by Dickins, Johns and Chipman (2012) while estimating the rates of teenage pregnancy in the United Kingdom. They asserted that girls from deprived families contributed to increased risks among the deprived areas because the socioeconomic status of their families made them possess low life expectations. Smith and Elander (2006) indicate that sexual activities, as well as early pregnancies, are prevalent in deprived areas. However, this depends on the family environment; a family that creates an environment for low life expectations increases the incidences of teenage pregnancies. This indicates a correlation between the incidences of early pregnancies and socioeconomic status. Despite the disparity in the socioeconomic orientation of the affluent and deprived areas, Delpisheh et al (2006) realized that the societal perception towards teenage pregnancy were in the two regions are both negative. However, the degree of acceptance of the teenage pregnancy from participants originating from deprived areas was found to be high compared to that of the participants from an affluent area. The limitation of Smith and Elander (2006) and Dickins, Johns and Chipman (2012) studies is that they only relied on female participants. This implies that the input of the male members was not included in the final results, especially that of teenage fathers. Participation of men could have changed the results on the risks related to the use of contraceptives, their perception towards love and the local sexual health services (Shaw and Lawlor, 2007). This indicates that inclusion of male teens could ardently affect the correlation results.
According to Vincent (2007), possession of life goals acts to motivate teenagers steer clear of the behaviours that may increase their risk of becoming pregnant. This is, however, applicable in situations where teenagers believe that becoming pregnant will stall their aspirations of becoming successful in future. Vincent’s ideas are supported by Dickins, Johns and Chipman (2012) that associates the involvement of teenagers in early sex activities to unfavourable future. The life goals that Vincent (2007) refers to are education and employment goals. Additionally, the research identified high rates of usage of contraceptives among participants who had efficient future goals. The research focused on educational and employment goals and the likelihood of attaining such goals. Research questions for the study sought information related to the probability of using contraceptives during sexual encounters, the alternative plans that one possesses in relation to prevention of pregnancy, and the way of dealing with the pregnancy one conception occurs. Vincent (2007) suggested that more accurate results could be accrued from focus on the behaviour and the attitude of the participants as well as a wider coverage. The results of the study indicated that inadequate resources and lack of support has made most teenagers feel discouraged and pressured in the efforts geared towards achieving the life goals. Vincent study proves that the society expects teenagers to achieve their life goals before engaging in sexual activities. Therefore, any form of barriers such as pregnancy will not auger well with the society expectations.
According to Bonell et al (2003), the prevalence of teenage pregnancy and the societal attitude towards pregnancy can also be related to feminist ideology existing within the society. This is an aspect of feminism focusing on the issues of the collective action and discrimination as they relate to women, especially teenagers. Pillow (2003) asserts that the issues of teenage pregnancy cannot be assessed without focus on women. According to Schwarz et al, (2008) women complain of the negative impact of early pregnancies in the achievement of life goals. They suggest that availability to birth control methods should be enhanced to minimise the prevalence of teenage pregnancy cases. Research has shown that teenagers tend to use the birth control measures once they are guaranteed of confidential access (Schwarz et al, 2008). As long as teenagers are assured of confidentiality in reproductive health care, they can make choices that can enhance their reproductive health. However, the modern teenage pregnancy control measures are dominated by traditional and moral perspectives rather than modern and inclusive methods capable of offering long-term solutions. For instance, most of the current preventive strategies focus on abstinence as the principle way of preventing teenage pregnancies (Schwarz et al, 2008). Insistence on abstinence as the only way of preventing teenage pregnancies by the society is based on the traditional moral ideologies that assert that teenagers should wait until marriage before engaging in sexual activities. The society only teaches them on the negative effects of sex. This scares and prevents them from making informed choices on the future directions of their life. Pillow (2003) asserts that the current programs on prevention of teenage pregnancy are biased towards the teenage mother rather than including the father and make them feel responsible for the child upkeep. The idea that childrearing is the mother’s role is an indication of the infiltration of the patriarchal ideals in the modern society (Pillow, 2003). This is also a barrier to the effectiveness of the efforts geared towards minimising teenage pregnancy rates because female teens with be held responsible for teen pregnancy cases although girls are normally powerless in making decisions involving the use of contraception. However, Schwarz et al (2008), asserts that preventive programs focusing on the feminist approach can be effective in empowering females to enhance prevention of the teenage pregnancy even when the male influence is domineering. For example, they should be advised to have sex only when satisfied that their partner is responsible and as well as the efficient mechanisms necessary for body protection such as use of contraceptives.
Teenage pregnancies are regarded as complex issues in Ireland. Duncan (2007) has portrayed the way in which the society views teenage pregnancy as a destructive societal challenge that has far reaching negative impact son both the mother and the society. However, this does not represent his personal view as he seemed to criticise most of the societal perceptions. Driscoll et al (2005) and Crisis Pregnancy Agency (2007) carried out research meant to identify the risk factors associated with teenage pregnancies. Such include involvement in early sexual activities, poor use of contraceptives, poverty, and poor performance in school that leads to dropping out of school, depression and low esteem.
Analysis of the parental influence towards teen pregnancy was carried through focus on the four leadership styles; neglectful, indulgent, authoritarian and authoritative (Carlson and Tanner, 2006). The neglectful and authoritarian parental style portrays higher rates of negative attitude towards teen sex in comparison to the neglectful and indulgent parental styles (Eisenberg, 2006; Carlson and Tanner, 2006).
Schwarz and O’Sullivan’s (2007) qualitative study on teen perception towards pregnancy revealed they possess a negative attitude. This would support the hypothesis that majority of the society sees teenage pregnancy as a problem in terms of achieving education and employment goals. Most of the participants in the study viewed teenage pregnancy as an impediment towards achievement of the life goals due to the negative impacts on education as well as relationship prospects. Smith and Elander (2006) study agreed with the hypothesis that socio economic status is the major factor contributing to high rate of teenage pregnancy. In a socioeconomic perspective, the risk factors identified by Smith and Elander’s study include early sexual activity, life expectations, attitudes towards abortion, their view towards the use of contraceptives, their perception towards love and the local sexual health services. The study supports the suggestion that attitudes of participant from deprived area will vary from attitudes of participant from non deprived area. Dickins, Johns and Chipman (2012) affirmed the significance of socioeconomic factors when analysing the societal attitudes towards early pregnancy. They asserted that the girls from deprived families contributed to increased risks among the deprived areas because the socioeconomic status of their families made them possess low life expectations. The literature review affirms that teenage pregnancy is viewed negatively by the society.
However, the literature review has provided conflicting views on the attitudes of the society towards teenage pregnancy. The planned research will investigate the attitudes of the society toward teenage pregnancy. Investigation will be carried to ascertain if teenage pregnancy is seen as problem in County Louth which according to Crisis Pregnancy Agency (2007) possess one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy rates in the developed countries i.e. a rate of 6.8pc. The research will also focus on socio economic status to ascertain whether the factor has contributes to the high rates of teenage pregnancies in the counties. The literature review has not indicated whether the teenage pregnancy is a barrier to educational and employment achievement.
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Bonell, C. P., Strange, V. J., Stephenson, J. M., Oakley, A. R., Copas, A. J., Forrest, S. P., & Carabine, J. (2007). New Labour’s teenage pregnancy policy. Cultural Studies, 21(6), 952-973.
Carlson, L. & Tanner, J.F. (2006). Understanding parental beliefs and attitudes about children sexual behaviour: Insights from parental style. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 40 (1), 144-162.
Chedraui, P. (2008). Pregnancy outcomes among young adolescents: trends, risk factors and maternal-perinatal outcome. Journal of Perinatal Medicine, 36(3), 256-259. doi: 10.1515/JPM.2008.047.
Coleman, L., & Cater, S. (2006). ‘Planned’ Teenage Pregnancy: Perspectives of Young Women from Disadvantaged Backgrounds in England. Journal of Youth Studies, 9(5), 593-614.
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Delpisheh, A., Kelly, Y., Rizwan, S., & Brabin, B. (2006). Socio-economic status, smoking during pregnancy and birth outcomes: an analysis of cross-sectional community studies in Liverpool (1993-2001). Journal of Child Health Care, 10, 2, 140-148.
Dickins, T. E., Johns, S. E., & Chipman, A. (2012). Teenage pregnancy in the United Kingdom: A behavioural ecological perspective. The Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 6(3), 344-359.
Driscoll, A., Sugland, B., Manlove, J., & Papillo, A. (2005). Community Opportunity, Perceptions of Opportunity, and the Odds of an Adolescent Birth. Youth & Society, 37(1), 33-61.
Duncan, S. (2007). What’s the problem with teenage parents? And what’s the problem with policy? Critical Social Policy, 27(25), 307-334.
Eisenberg, M., Sieving, R., Bearinger, L., Swain, C., & Resnick, M. (2006). Parents’ communication with adolescents about sexual behaviour: A missed opportunity for prevention? Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 35(6), 893-902. doi:10.1007/s10964-006-9093-y.
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The aim of the research will be to investigate the attitudes of the society toward teenage pregnancy.
To investigate if teenage pregnancy is seen as a problem in Ireland
To examine if socio economic status influences the opinion of the society on teenage pregnancy.
To determine if, teenage pregnancy is perceived as a barrier to educational and employment achievement (because you do not research if it really is, you will only study people’s opinion)
Main Hypothesis or General Research Question:
It is hypothesized that majority of the society sees teenage pregnancy as a problem in terms of achieving education and employment goals.
In addition, it is hypothesized that attitudes of participant from deprived area will vary from attitudes of participant from non deprived area.
The participants will be informed on their right to withdraw at any stage if not comfortable with the questions
Confidentiality: All the responses from the questionnaire were kept secure and were not be available to third party.
Inform consent: Participants are informed on the nature and purpose of the research.
Anonymity: The names of the participants are anonymous.
The research participants will be both female and male aged 30 – 65 from deprived and non deprived area of Dublin and Louth Counties. Access to the participant will be ensured through giving out questionnaire to participants in public places such as churches, shopping centres, and community centres. The sample that will be used comprises of 72 (60 ) participants from a non-deprived and 48 (40 ) from a deprived area. The sample size will be uniformly distributed in the two regions i.e. 36 participants from a non-deprived area and 24 from a deprived areas of both Dublin and County Louth.
The research will be undertaken using a quantitative approach involving the use of questionnaire to collect data from the participants and analyzing the data using a statistical method to arrive at a conclusion.
The scale will range from 1- 5, from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The methods of sample identification will be strategic in terms of genders balance i.e. the sample from the two regions will be characterized by equal gender representation. The method of analysis will be quantitative statistics analysis.