Teenage parenthood is by no means a new social phenomenon. Historically, women have tended to begin childbearing during their teens and early twenties. During the past two decades the U. S. teenage birthrate has actually declined (Polit and others, 1982). In the late 1950s, 90 out of 1000 women under 20 gave birth as compared with 52 out of 1000 in 1978. Several factors contribute to the current attention focused on teenage pregnancy and parenthood.
There is currently a large number of young women in the 13 to 19 age range, so that while the birthrates are declining, the absolute number of teenagers is increasing.
These statistics do not distinguish between intentional and unintentional pregnancies, or pregnancies occurring in or out of wedlock. From the 1978 figures, only one in six pregnancies concluded as births following marriage, and eight in ten premarital teenage pregnancies were unintended. The declining birthrate is not consistent for all teenagers: among those 14 or younger, the birthrate is increasing. These trends are occurring at a time when contraceptives are increasingly available to teenagers as a means of avoiding unwanted pregnancy. The evidence documenting the unfavorable consequences of unintended teenage pregnancy and teenage parenthood, whether intended or not, has continued to mount. There is an unmistakable and dramatic trend away from teenagers giving their children up for adoption.
Study in Index
Causes and Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy
Lack of time
Parents should spend time with kids. Sitting down with your child and helping with homework you may prevent teen pregnancy? yes it’s true. Even if your teen is not a shining academic star, she has alternatives. Get to those band and choral concerts, make it to the talent show, attend Friday night football games with your kids. Show them you care about their education.
Low self-esteem is among the causes of teen pregnancy. Children who are not shown love and affection from parents will seek it out with their peer group. Many adolescents report feeling pressured by their peers to have sex before they are ready.
Families with two parents in the home have a lower incidence of teen pregnancies. However, even as a single parent, you can still extend the love, affection, and care your child needs. As a single parent you have less time for yourself, but your child needs a positive role model.
Lack of supervision before teens are ready for independence is one of the causes of teenage pregnancy. Adolescents push boundaries. Look, I know it is easier to let your kid go hang at the mall or wander around an outside shopping area than it is to lay down the rules and stick by them. But if they aren’t at the mall for something specific, they have no business being there.
Knowing where your teens are going and whom they are with is basic parenting. If you don’t know the kids they are hanging out with, get to know them. Allow your teen to have friends over; then make sure you are checking on them regularly down in that basement!
No pep talk!
Okay, it’s impossible to hang on your teen like a fly to flypaper. So, give her the tools to make good decisions. Talk to her about sex and birth control, and the causes of teen pregnancy. You wouldn’t withhold information about preventing type 2 diabetes, so why would you withhold how to prevent teen pregnancy or STDs?
The causes of teen pregnancy are daunting, but what it boils down to is this: Be the parent your teen needs. Be available and interested in their lives. Ask questions. Set rules and stick by them. Be the bad guy because that is the job you signed up for when you had children. Above all, lead them with love.
Teenage Pregnancy Rate
It’s a long term problem. Stats gave insights in the chronic issue of teenage pregnancy. Of the 29 million young people between the ages of 13 and 19, approximately 12 million have had sexual intercourse. Of this group, in 1981, more than 1.1 million became pregnant; three- quarters of these pregnancies were unintended, and 434,000 ended in abortion (What Government Can Do, 1984). The number of pregnancies increased among teenagers in all age groups during the 1970s, but among those who were sexually active the pregnancy rate has been declining. Because of increased and more consistent use of contraceptives by teenagers, the rate of pregnancy among them has been increasing more slowly than their rate of sexual activity. Although the number of teenagers who are sexually active increased by two-thirds over the 1970s, over half of U.S. teenagers are sexually inactive (Teenage Pregnancy, 1981).
About five percent of U. S. teenagers give birth each year. A recent study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute showed teen birthrates here to be twice as high as Canada, England, and Wales, three times as high as Sweden, and seven times higher than the Netherlands.
Out of Wedlock Births
Although slowed because of the availability of legal abortion, the rise in the out-of-wedlock birthrate has continued among almost all groups of teenagers. The rise has been steepest among 15- to 17-year-old whites. The number of premaritally conceived births legitimated by marriage has been Adoption and Care by Others. Almost all unwed teenage mothers keep their children in the household with them. Ninety-six percent of unmarried teenage mothers—90 percent of white and virtually all of black mothers—keep their children with them (although in many cases, grandparents or other relatives help take care of the baby).
Repeated Unintentional Pregnancies
As might be expected, 78 percent of births to teenagers are first births. However, 19 percent are second births, and four percent are third or higher order births. The sooner a teenager gives birth after initiation of intercourse, the more likely she is to have subsequent births while still in her teens.
Reasons for Non-use
Nearly two-thirds of unwed teenage women report that they never practice contraception or that they use a method inconsistently. According to the Guttmacher Institute (Teenage Pregnancy, 1981), only nine percent of unmarried teenagers surveyed said that they did not use a method of contraception because they were trying to become pregnant or were already intentionally pregnant. Forty-one percent thought they could not become pregnant, mainly because they believed, usually mistakenly, that it was the wrong time of the month.
Of those who had realized they could get pregnant, the major reason given for not using a method was that they had not expected to have intercourse. Of the 15 percent who did not practice contraception because they were pregnant, the overwhelming majority were pregnant unintentionally. About eight percent said that they had wanted to use a method but “couldn’t under the circumstances,” or that they did not know about contraception or where to get it.
Relationship to Pregnancy
The relationship between pregnancy and contraceptive use is dramatic: about 62 percent of sexually active teenagers who have never used a method have experienced a premarital pregnancy, compared to 30 percent of those who have used a method inconsistently, 14 percent of those who have always used some method (including withdrawal), and just seven percent of those who have always used a medically prescribed method (the pill, IUD, or diaphragm).
The Health Belief Model
Current research has examined the Health Belief Model (Zellman, 1984), a value-expectancy approach to explaining and predicting health behaviors that goes beyond straight information giving. This approach can be used to intervene in contraceptive use among teenagers. Because contraceptive action involves a preventive health decision followed by correct and consistent use, the model may have useful applications to both the prevention and compliance aspects of contraceptive behavior.
The subject of sex education remains a divisive one. On one side are those who argue that Americans should learn to accept adolescent sexuality and make guidance and birth control more easily available, as it is in parts of Europe. On the other side are those who contend that sex education is up to the parents, not the state, and that teaching children about birth control is tantamount to condoning promiscuity, or violating family religious beliefs and values. Limiting sex education to STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) awareness is not the right approach.