The prevalence of teenage pregnancy in the United States has been viewed as a major social problem because of its effects on the teen parent/s, their families, communities, and the larger society. Various researchers have tried to determine the primary causes and effects of teenage pregnancy. According to most studies, teenage pregnancy is primarily caused by sexual abuse, poverty, lack of knowledge, and alcoholism. These causes lead to serious consequences such as physical and mental disabilities for the infant and social and economic difficulties for the mother. This essay analyzes and discusses these causes and effects, and tries to provide some feasible recommendations for the prevention of teenage pregnancy.
Every year the number of teenage parents is increasing at an alarming rate. Despite the clarity of the facts, the topics surrounding adolescent parenthood are made difficult by our inconsistent behaviors and perspectives. The influences of sex are on display on the airwaves; younger girls are now being shown as objects of sexual desire; everything from news to fashion is being used to sell sex. Yet it is shocking to society that the number of teens who are deciding to become sexually active is on the rise. There are four major contributing factors to teenage pregnancy which are sexual abuse, poverty, lack of knowledge and alcoholism. The possible major consequences of teenage pregnancy are physical and mental disabilities for the infant and social and economic difficulties for the mother. [thesis statement] In order to come up with effective solutions, parents, teachers and the community must become involved and be willing to move past being in shock over the issue and the mere denial that this is truly a problem and be willing to separate fact from assumption and present alternatives to teenage parenthood. Creating operable resolutions will require the honest acknowledgment that much is still not fully understood about the causes of teenage pregnancy (Sams 2008).
Recent Trends in Teenage Pregnancy
Due to an increase in high-risk sexual behaviors, the prevalence of teenage pregnancy escalated throughout the latter part of the 20th century. The United States has one of the biggest numbers of pregnant teenagers among developed countries, and the numbers are continuously increasing. In 1996, roughly 1,011,000 infants were born to adolescents in the U.S. (Cherry, Dillon, & Rugh, 2001, 183). However, the rate of teenagers becoming pregnant was declining for many years, but it’s increasing again. According to the report that released in March by the National Center for Health Statistics, the teen birth rate has increased from 5 between 2005 and 2007. In 2007, Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior survey reveals that the declines in teenage sexual activity increase and teenage contraceptive use have come to a standstill. About one-fourth teenage mothers have a second child within 24 months, which makes it harder for them to finish school, keep a job or escape from poverty. Eight out of 10 fathers do not marry the teen mother of their child, and daughters of teenage mothers are most likely to become teen mothers themselves (Wright, 2009). The children born to teenage mothers are twice as likely to suffer abuse and neglect. Most teens who are 17 and under don’t graduate from high school and only 2 earn a college degree by the age 30 (Wright, 2009).
In 2011, the rate of teenage pregnancy in the U.S. dropped dramatically. Although the decline in the prevalence of teenage pregnancy in the U.S. is an encouraging development, a huge population of American teenagers have unplanned, usually unwanted, pregnancies annually, raising unfavorable consequences for adolescent parents and their children (Bromberg & O’Donohue, 2013). For instance, adolescent mothers are more prone to experience poverty, discontinue their education, and their children often develop developmental and health-related difficulties.
Factors Associated with Teenage Pregnancy
Conservative groups in the U.S. generally view teenage pregnancy as a social crisis that has emerged due to the collapse of traditional family structure and values. The rise in the prevalence of child abuse, domestic violence, and juvenile delinquency are instances of the other dilemmas that are assumed to be the outcome of the weakening role of the family in the socialization, training, and education of children (Arai, 2009).
Sexual abuse was directly correlated with teenage pregnancy because it raised the probability that adolescents will take part in risky sexual activities, such as having numerous sexual partners. The connection between teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse was attributed to unsafe behaviors, such as early engagement in sexual activities, alcoholism, drug use, and poor academic performance (Arai, 2009). Other scholars have claimed that sexual experience is more significant than sexual abuse in determining teenage pregnancy. Still, studies consistently find a correlation between childhood sexual abuse and first sexual experience. Researchers have found that those who experienced sexual abuse during their childhood are more likely to engage early in sexual activities (Bromberg & O’Donohue, 2013). Even though it is likely that an early first sexual experience may have been a forced sexual intercourse, studies that particularly investigated the shift to first deliberate sexual intercourse discovered that first wanted sexual experience and sexual abuse are directly correlated (Bromberg & O’Donohue, 2013).
Engaging in sexual activities at a younger age has been constantly discovered to be related to a higher vulnerability to teenage pregnancy, partly because adolescents who become actively involved in sexual activities earlier have more time to become pregnant. Studies on childhood sexual abuse have also discovered that those who experienced sexual abuse have a tendency to have multiple sexual partners during their teenage years (Arai, 2009). Other researchers have discovered a direct correlation between the number of sexual partners and sexual abuse. Adolescents who have had a greater number of sexual partners are more prone to become pregnant, partly because of a bigger chance for pregnancy with greater incidence of sexual intercourse (Cherry et al., 2001).
Poverty is both a source and an outcome of teenage pregnancy. A significant percentage of young unmarried mothers are living in poverty. Poor education or low levels of education among adolescent mothers influences the levels of their long-term income. They are less likely to attain higher levels of education, and are hence less likely to have stable jobs (Arai, 2009). Child support largely forms an important source of income for single unmarried mothers. The fathers may provide inadequate support for their children, aggravating financial problems for the teen mother. Teen fathers are usually living in poverty themselves; studies show that they also have low levels of education and have difficulties finding stable sources of income (Farber, 2009).
A recent government research has discovered that a number of teenage girls are uninformed about the likelihood of getting pregnant at a young age. Indeed, many adolescent girls who had unplanned pregnancies revealed that they did not use any form of contraceptive because they did not know or think they may get pregnant (Stobbe, 2012). The research, carried out by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not request any further explanation from their respondents; nevertheless, a number of researchers claim that before, “teen moms have said they believe they could not get pregnant the first time they had sex, didn’t think they could get pregnant at that time of the month or thought they were sterile” (Stobbe, 2012, para 5).
Studies have demonstrated that one of the major causes of teenage pregnancy is immaturity, absence of a sense of responsibility for their behavior, and most significantly a lack of knowledge or ignorance as regards contraception and sexual activities. More than half of the total population of teenagers in the U.S. admits not having any or sufficient knowledge of contraception or sex (Cherry et al., 2001).
Alcohol causes more unwanted teenage pregnancies than anything else. Binge drinking is the number one cause to unwanted pregnancy. Approximately 20 of alcohol consumption in the U.S. comprises teenagers ages 12 and above (Bromberg & O’Donohue, 2013, 83). Too much alcohol consumption weakens self-control and self-consciousness and anything can occur, including unplanned pregnancy. Most of the cases of teenage pregnancy are caused by unprotected sexual intercourse, which likely takes place between teenagers who are intoxicated. A study has been conducted about sex among adolescents and the findings are somewhat troubling. Only 75 percent of teenagers use contraceptives when clear-headed, and as they consume greater amounts of alcohol, that number goes down (Arai, 2009, 104).
In summary, poverty contributes to teenage pregnancy, in most cases, when a child is not cared for at an early age. Drugs and alcohol are other factors in teen pregnancy. While under the influence of these substances teens are not aware of their actions. Having sex before 20 is the popular thing to do. Participating in pre-adult sexual activity is becoming normal all over the world and has brought about high levels of adolescent pregnancy which creates sexual relationships among teenagers without the provision of comprehensive information about sex (Spaulding, 2005). Sexual abuse is also a cause of teenage pregnancy. Rape as sexual abuse has more effect in the life of a teenage girl, causing unwanted sex and pregnancy. Teenagers also become pregnant due to the lack of maturity, responsibility and enough education regarding sexual intercourse (Agarwal, 2008). As a result of these deficiencies, teenage parents are affected in every aspect of their lives.
Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy
The consequences of teenage pregnancy for the child and the mother are well established. Several negative outcomes have been related to teenage pregnancy, including material deprivation or financial difficulties. Teenage mothers are more prone to live in a low-income household, to be beneficiaries of welfare, and to reside in social housing (Farber, 2009). The detrimental psychological consequences of teenage pregnancy are less well known but are still apparent. Teenage mothers are more prone to experience disintegration in personal relationship and to be single mothers.
Teenage pregnancy has been discovered to be related to poorer physical and psychological health conditions for both child and mother (Arai, 2009), Adolescent mothers are more likely to engage in unhealthy habits like smoking, to experience weight gain, and to have a larger postpartum body mass index (BMI). They are also more at risk of postnatal depression (Cherry et al., 2001). Moreover, the children of adolescent mothers are more prone to encounter accidents. Adolescent mothers are more prone to have health disorders caused by too much stress, and to experience more severe symptoms of depression than those who get pregnant later in life (Farber, 2009).
Almost one million teen pregnancies occur in the United States each year (“Facts In Brief”, 1996). Teen pregnancy is a crisis with crippling effects on the teen mothers, the infants, and society as a whole. Because 85 of all teenage pregnancies are unplanned, this crisis yields certain adverse implications (Sams, 2008). Pregnant teens often continue to engage in unhealthy practices that directly pose harm to their unborn infants. Teen mothers often wear inappropriate (tight) clothing, continue participating in sport activities, lack adequate sleep, smoke cigarettes or marijuana, possess unhealthy eating patterns, and consume alcoholic beverages (Sams, 2008). These activities often result in infants with undeveloped organs which can result in mental retardation and physical deformities and/or miscarriages.
Teenage pregnancy can produce a certain cycle of emotional effects within the teen mother: initial excitement, confusion, fear, resentment, and frustration. The children of teen parents often are deprived of proper nutrition, healthcare, and social and cognitive stimulation which inadvertently results in lower academic achievement and underdeveloped intellect. To make an attempt to name all the effects and risks of this decision in life are too numerous to count.
In the meantime, it has been said that African American teenage mothers and their children have to face difficulties in healthcare which includes a high risk of health problems. Some of the problems teenagers face comes from the fact that over 50 of pregnant teens do not receive the proper prenatal care until the baby is in the second trimester (Cole-McCrew & Shore, 1991). According to the Research Library data base, teenagers’ age 15 to 19 die due to child birth prior to being physically ready for parenthood. Moreover, they are at greater risk of contracting H.I.V. The National Campaign discovered that nearly 50 of teenagers say their parents influence their decision about sex more than friends, the media or any other source. Seventy-three percent of adults and 56 teenagers wished young people were getting more advice on abstinence and contraceptives rather than just having one or the other (Wright 2009).
Pregnant teens are more likely to have long term health problems and complications after the child is born, such as STD, hypertension, poor weight gain and placenta abruption. Neonatal death rates are three times higher in teen mothers than compared to adult mothers (“Adolescent Pregnancy-Current,” 1998, 1999). Babies born from teenage mothers are more likely to be born prematurely and suffer from low birth-weight. These two complications place the child at a higher risk for neonatal death and morbidities, such as blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, chronic respiratory problems, and developmental delays (Morgan et al., 1995). These risk increase when there are financial hardships in raising the child. Children from female-headed families are more likely not to have adequate health and dental care, which results in chronic illnesses and behavioral problems (Horn, 1998).
With all the physical and mental disabilities that have been presented to teens concerning their babies, it does not seem to have made much of an impact on them continuing down the same path of destruction. Instead of worrying so much on who, what, when, where, and why of the situation, society needs to design an effective solution to the problem. In doing so this may help to lower the statics of teenage pregnancy in the world.
Over the years, there has been much disagreement about social services or public programs that are designed to support pregnant teenagers. The apprehension is that these services could be inadvertently persuading teenagers to become sexually active. There are several measures that may be adopted to support pregnant teenagers. First is access to appropriate mental health and medical care for the children and young parents. The first component in an inclusive program to prevent or reduce the negative outcomes of teenage pregnancy is to enhance access to mental health and medical care. Second is to help teenage parents achieve higher levels of education.
Third is to provide financial support and housing for the children and teen parents. Another major component of an inclusive program is to safeguard children and teen mothers from the detrimental consequences of poverty. It is not being a single parent alone but the poverty accompanying it that causes mental and physical disorders in the children of adolescent parents. And lastly, access of after-school courses for the children of teen parents. An inclusive program should safeguard children of teen parents from the adverse outcomes of teenage pregnancy by means of after-school programs. Researchers have found out that after-school courses lessen the likelihood of juvenile delinquency, school failure, and teenage pregnancy.
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