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Teenage Pregnancy Essay Sample

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Teenage pregnancy is a significant social issue due to many challenges that young mothers have to face. Teenagers should be provided with accurate information about sexual life, abstinence and ways of contraception, as well as about the risks, which are associated with unplanned teenage pregnancy. The studies and public perceptions of teen pregnancy have often been based on the theory that giving birth to a child as a teenager is one of the main factors that contribute to social disadvantages of young women. However, it worth noting that many of the important aspects related to this issue do not just have a simple cause-effect connection. The nature and consequences of teen pregnancy is a complex social phenomenon that considers different important social and economic variables such as race, ethnicity, cultural and financial background, family background and education.

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The Nature and Factors that Influence Teenage Pregnancy

The vast majority of teenage pregnancies are accidental. According to Miller (1997), only 15 percent of the teen couples actually plan to have a child. Researches connect unplanned occurrence of teen pregnancies to poor sex education. Approximately 50 percent of teen pregnancies happen within the first half of a year after the beginning of a sex life. Moreover, twenty percent of teenage pregnancies occur within the first month. In addition, the half of the teenage mothers will perform an abortion and most will raise their children as single mothers. Both teenage mothers and their children are likely to fall within a disadvantaged social group when compared to families with mothers who had their first child at older age. Children of teenage mothers frequently have problems in school. The risk for such children to repeat a grade is 50 percent higher than for children of older mothers. Teenage pregnancy and childbearing contribute to health deterioration and increasing crime rates. According to Miller (1997), “a child born to an unmarried teenage high school dropout is ten times more likely to live in poverty by the time he or she is eight to twelve years old.” Studies point out that almost 26 percent of fathers who have abandoned their children live in poverty. Miller (1997), states that teenage high school dropouts “have only a 1 percent chance of getting a job.” Consequently, such teen mothers will have to endure the struggles associated with life on welfare, especially since teenage fathers rarely have as high income as men who have children in older age.

Thus, various factors shape the nature of teenage pregnancy and the severity of consequences that result from this issue. Despite the dismal statistics, researchers cannot state with certainty that teenage pregnancy automatically results in poverty. When debating the notion of teen parents’ welfare, the most discussed factors are the importance and efficiency of sex education. In addition, this social issue often raises such debatable questions as whether sex education contributes to premature beginning of sex active among adolescence. Other discussions address the question whether teen pregnancy is the key factor of high rates of high school dropouts and socio-economic disadvantage of young mothers.

Public opinion about the social groups that are most exposed to teen pregnancy and are often based on valid arguments, such as that adolescence pregnancy, occurs more often among teenagers of working class. However, the issue is surrounded by many biases and prejudices, such as, for example, that young women from disadvantaged groups get pregnant deliberately only to benefit from social welfare and housing. According to Arai (2009), in modern society, negative stereotypes play the most significant role in shaping public perceptions of teen mothers that are most often regarded as having low standards of morals and behavior. A great bulk of studies of teenage pregnancy in developed countries indicates that the occurrences of teenage pregnancies are not equally distributed (Arai, 2009).

One of the mostly discussed factors that is believed to influence the high rates of adolescence pregnancy is television. The study of Chandra et al. (2008) indicates that teenagers who are frequently exposed to sexual content on TV are predicted to premature pregnancy. It is estimated that young people who view sexual content on TV for a substantial period are more likely become pregnant before age 20 when compared to those that constrain from viewing sexual content on TV. The research was the first to establish a connection between exposure to sexual content on TV and reproductive health consequences. The results can suggest that viewing TV can affect various aspects of health among teenagers. Information that adolescents obtain through TV does not usually indicate the risks of sexual life. Thus, television may have a significant contribution to the high rates of teen pregnancy in the US (Chandra et al., 2008).

A Theoretical Approach Systems Theory Applied to Teen Pregnancy

The issue of teen pregnancy can be approached with two different sociological theories: Functionalist Theory and Symbolic Interactionism. When applying the Functionalist Theory, it gives the view on the effect of the subject matter on society as a whole. This theory also corresponds to questions of stability and public values. One way teenage pregnancy have influenced society is that it launched the mechanism of social service aimed at helping teen parents. Some companies and organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, help teen mothers and aid the programs that help prevent teen pregnancy. Consequently, new jobs were created as companies had a need to hire employees. Another way teen pregnancy affects society is the taxes that are used for social aid to young mothers. According to the NCPTP, “teen childbearing costs taxpayers at least $9 billion each year, including public sector health care costs, increased child welfare costs, prison costs and lost tax revenue” (Hermes, n.d.). More than half of mothers that receive welfare had their first child in their teens. The importance of applying Functionalist Theory is that it allows viewing how specific actions of individuals can impact a whole society.

The Symbolic Interactionism theory deals with the symbols of everyday life, their meaning and interaction with people. From the perspective of this theory, people assign symbols different meaning and they perceive things through their subjective interpretation. Therefore, the way in which a particular issue is portrayed to people can influence individual’s opinion. This issue is topical, since there are many misconceptions and prejudice surrounding adolescence pregnancy and prejudice is believed to deteriorate social problems.

The Social Injustices and the Oppressive Forces that are Implicated in Teen Pregnancy

Teenage pregnancy is associated with various socio-economic and health problems of young mothers. Social injustice can lead teen mothers to live below the poverty line, working in social housing and at low paid jobs. The majority of studies of teenage pregnancy are concerned with such problems as low income and vulnerable social groups, such as urban populations consisting of mainly African American and/or Hispanic minorities.

The question of whether having a child as a teenager results in negative economic outcomes is still controversial even though a considerable number of researchers have studied this problem. Fletcher & Wolfe (2009), claim that teenage motherhood is the factor that reduces the chances by 5 to 10 percent for a mother to graduate from a high school. The researchers also estimated that teen childbearing decreases annual income by $1,000 to $2,300. It also increases the likelihood of receiving welfare assistance and decreases years of education (Fletcher & Wolfe, 2009).

Klepinger, Lundberg and Plotnick (1999), study the impact of teen childbearing on education, employment and income. The results indicate that teenage mother who have limited educational accomplishment are likely to earn reduced wages. The research also discovers that black teen mothers experience a drop in wages by 13% compared to white mothers who experience a drop of 23%. The reason for this is limited education and work experience among white women. Black women tend to have a higher proportion of return for education but not for work experience. The researchers argue that low income of teenage mothers combined with the need to take care of children make them dependent on government support. Thus, Klepinger, Lundberg and Plotnick (1999), speculate that the reduction of teenage pregnancy occurrences will contribute to better economic conditions for young women.
Byrne, Myers and King (1991), conducted a research on the short-term economic outcomes of adolescence pregnancy. The researchers investigated data relating to education, work experience and economic situation of women who had their first child as a teenager. The sample of the study included both young mothers and those teenagers that had chosen an abortion. The aim of the study was to test whether it is childbirth itself that contributes to a limitation of education and employment or just pregnancy. The study estimated that by the age of 25, teenage mothers had an average of 11.3 years of education, while young women who had an abortion had 12.7 years. As a control group, the researchers used a sample of women who never got pregnant as teenagers and discovered an average of 13.3 years of education. The study also investigated the dropout rates. 36.3 percent of teen mothers dropped high school compared to 11.2 percent of teens who had an abortion and 5.7 percent of girls who were not pregnant. As for employment rates, the study indicated that only 58 percent of teen mothers had an employment, while abortion group sample and ‘never-pregnant’ group had the rates of 80 and 84 percent respectively. The study does not specify the differences in rates between women of different racial groups. However, the researchers pointed out that Black or Hispanic teens tend to have lower wages than white young mothers. Current study confirms that there is a connection between teenage childbearing and economic condition. In addition, teenage abortions also serve as an indicator of less favorable economic outcomes.

The study of Geronimus and Korenman (1992), aimed at defining the cross-sectional associations between adolescent childbearing and aspects of socio-economic success. The researchers point out that many works on the subject are biased, since they fail to take into account the dissimilarity in the population of mothers. Geronimus and Korenman (1992), employed the approach of "within family estimation" in order to control the family background dissimilarity. While analyzing the obtained information, the examiners considered such socio-economic factors as work and marital status, level of education, economic situation of the family and others. Once these indicators are taken into account, the results reveal little difference in outcomes. From their findings, Geronimus and Korenman (1992), note that “all of the effects of a teen birth on current income is explained by differences in current marital status and high school completion” (p. 1204).

Social Work Strategies for Prevention of and Intervention with Teenage Pregnancy

According to current studies, nearly every teenager in the United States is subjected to some form of sex education. However, all these programs have different focus and intensity. Kirby (2001), divides all sex education programs into two groups: abstinence-only and sex and HIV education, which is often referred to as ‘abstinence+’ or comprehensive sex education. It is worth pointing out that few of these programs are effective. Kirby (2001), investigated strategies that have changed teenagers’ sexual behavior and outlined ten common characteristics that every sex education program should include. Kirby (2001), states that if the program lacks at least one of these aspects it will most likely be ineffective. These characteristics are as follows:
1. The program should focus on changing sexual behaviors.
2. The program should ground on or be related to a theoretical approach that has proven to be effective in changing other health-related behaviors.
3. The program should send and support a consistent message that motivats teenagers to abstain from sex or use condoms or other ways of protection against pregnancy and diseases. This aspect is considered to be one the most significant features of successful sex education program.
4. The program should present the most important and correct information about the risks related to sex among adolescences. Such information should be reinforced by knowledge of the ways to avoid sexual intercourse and forms of contraception.
5. The program should contain activities that are related to increasing awareness of social pressures that influence sexual behavior.
6. The program should present examples of communication and refusal skills.
7. The program should apply teaching approaches created in the way that help participants get involved in the discussion related to the presented information.
8. The program should include goals, techniques and data that are appropriate to the participants’ age, culture and other peculiarities.
9. The program should last an appropriate amount of time. Kirby (2001), suggest that this period should be at least several hours.
10. The program should involve educators who are motivated and believe in the program. Moreover, they should pass an appropriate training.

Conclusion

The literature shows that teen pregnancy is associated with definite negative consequences for young mothers and their children. When compared to mothers who have their first child in older age, teen mothers have lower chances to finish their education, have a well-paid job. Moreover, there is a substantial risk for teenage mothers to become unemployed and live on welfare. All these factors contribute to high rates of teen mothers who live in poverty. Such risk increases drastically if a young woman is a single mother. However, when considering different social and economic variables in the analysis of the research data, most of the negative consequences, such as dropouts and poverty, largely result from racial, ethnic and financial background rather than from the age of childbearing. Since the majority of teenage mothers have disadvantaged social and economic backgrounds, they face most of the consequences of their families’ position and situation they had before pregnancy. Many programs and strategies are employed in order to provide sex education for teenagers. The aim of these programs is to reduce teenage pregnancy rates. However, many of them fail, since they are not effective in addressing the inequities that a lot of young women experience.

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