Teen pregnancy has become a virus more dangerous in modern social set ups than ever witnessed before, and seemingly, the numbers are increasing in leaps and bounds with every rising sun. Adolescent pregnancy has turned its ugly head plaguing every country almost a like with devastating consequences to modern society. The social changes leading to this visibility are not only based on changes in sexual behaviors, but it also changes in the nature of adolescence.
The decline of the average age of menarche, which was 14.2 years just a decade ago, has dropped tremendously by more than two years. This statistic simply suggests that since girls are more capable of having children at tender ages than before, they are also more apt to have sex at these ages. The social changes have had a major impact on a range of family issues that include but not limited to the average age of marriage, customary attitudes in a marriage as a sacred institution, and shifts in economic challenges due to longer educational careers. These changes have raised pockets of poverty where education is undervalued or not taken seriously. Under these circumstances, many teenage have become dependent on their parents for a longer period than usually the case.
Today’s society in particular is suddenly portraying teenage pregnancy as “acceptable” or even “cool” which is further aggravating the problem. Recent statistics of media coverage exposing pregnant teens on different types of TV programs as their storyline has played a major role in increasing the numbers. Many adolescent teens have developed the attitude of “I can also do it too” from watching such shows, and actually become teen mothers in the end. In contrast, the TV shows are not explaining the difficulty and the responsibilities that accompany child bearing.
The glamorous Hollywood scenes showing teen single-mothers, more so of celebrities have made the status more attractive for other young teenagers. For instance, when Jamie Lynn Spears, the sister of Brittany Spears was announced pregnant at the age of 16, it became top news, especially for OK magazine, which sold over two million copies because of popular demand (Hofferth, 2001 pg. 256). Because of her tender age, everyone was shocked in the beginning, but the shock boiled down to acceptance given that she had a rich family support to live a normal life thereafter. For the simple reason that Jamie Spears being a young, preteen idol, she acquired millions of fans looking up to her and possibly watching her as an example on how she handles her situation and consequently desire to do the same. At no time did the media stop and try to analyze the situation in a way that would sensitize young teens that what happened to Jamie Spears is not right. Many hit shows such as “Gossip Girl” and “Degrassi” among other such like shows influence very negatively on young teens of today.
Teenage pregnancy is one key factor leading teen mothers into social disadvantage lives. Teenagers giving birth at tender ages share many similarities with other women before becoming pregnant in terms of family status and in the level of education. The visibility of these inequalities tends to emerge only after dropping out of school (Hofferth, 2001 pg. 259).
Teenage pregnancy and non-completion of school immensely contribute to poverty experienced by young mothers. The amount of time dedicated to the child atomically decreases the free time of the mother and so to other duties like education. For teenage mothers, caring for the new arrivals means stiffer competition of responsibilities for time and energy hitherto available before giving birth. According to statistics, most teenagers falling pregnant end up dropping out of school (Hofferth 2001pg. 261). It is an obvious fact that a teenager is not well prepared as a mature older woman to bear and raise a child, and this is a disadvantage more so to the child. Teenagers most affected are those coming from single-parenthood with many siblings (Hofferth 2001pg. 263). Several recent studies confirm this and even go to the extent of highlighting the problem of miscarriages among teenagers validating their unpreparedness to motherhood. One study found out that only 41 percent of teenage mothers giving birth before attaining the age of 18 do proceed up to high school graduation (Hofferth 2001 pg. 263).
The amount of school completed affects life in general concerning marriage opportunities, circle of friends and income from jobs, which has a direct link to poverty. Girls giving birth during adolescent years tend to be less effective in a number of ways than their peers who postpone childbearing to a later date. Recent research points out that many of the negative outcomes of teenage motherhood, such as having low educational achievement as well as poverty precede rather than being the consequences of early parenthood (Moore 1995 pg.195). In essence, adolescent childbearing further limits the prospects of adolescent girls already disadvantaged in other areas of life. The consequences include lower rates of school completion, poor psychological functioning, less stable employment, higher levels of poverty, lower rates of marital stability, greater welfare utilization, and increased rates of health problems for both teenage mothers and the children in comparison to their peers who delay childbearing (Moore 1995 pg. 254). Other consequences of teenage motherhood are low-achievement levels, low-motivation, immaturity in handling issues and lack of success in school- already linked to school dropouts (Hofferth 2001pg. 264).
Keen analysis of these facts clearly shows that early child bearers are less likely to attain high school certification or at least college degree than their childless peers are. Moore and his colleagues (1995) study on adolescents points that teenage parenthood strongly affects educational attainment of girls, and as such, young mothers are unlikely to continue with education beyond giving birth and thus leading to lower levels of education compared to their peers who delay their pregnancy. Because of low educational attainment, teen mothers are likely to earn lower incomes if at all employed and are more likely to be on welfare compared to their age mates who delay childbirth (Moore 1995 pg. 215).
The study further revealed that young mothers who graduated successfully from high school and lucky to have work experience are better placed in obtaining and maintaining stable employment. In contrast, mothers armed with only basic education generally have a lower level of functioning capability, and so when this fact adds to the numerous family problems, they may experience difficulties maintaining stable jobs, and consequently suffer substantial losses in income (Moore 1995 pg. 216). Apparently, parental involvement in daughters’ activities in and out of school such as honoring school meetings and ceremonies are not related to whether daughters will become pregnant. Additionally, adolescents who participate in religious functions, club activities in high school are less likely to become pregnant at early ages (Moore 1995 pg. 205).
Preventing teenage pregnancy should be one most important goal that every parent needs to get concerned with. Many have voiced their opinions on the subject of teen pregnancy given the startling statistics. However, a common stand on how to address this problem has been a challenge. There are those who argue that having babies is a privilege and not a problem in any way. Nevertheless, getting pregnant and the subsequent bearing of kids have many pros and cons, and I totally subscribe to this school of thought. Pregnancy denotes a pending additional responsibility. However, even before delivery, financial stability is a basic requirement, which most teenagers do not posses. At 16, the possibility that a teenager do not have a salary to support a child is highly expected. For purposes of a bright future, teenage pregnancy should be prevented should means be available. A number of preventive measures may prove helpful, but there is one sure of arresting the problem- Abstinence will never betray anyone.
Total abstinence from sexual activities not only prevents teen pregnancy, but also does prevent the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. As with any remedy to the numerous social problems, this proposal has encountered resistance from different quarters including the teenagers themselves. Most teenagers have sex because of influence from their peers. Teenagers should understand that peers are just as important as abstinence, and they should explain and support this stand among themselves. Alternatively, less sex and more condoms use have had great results in the past in lowering the rates of teenage pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted disease (Manlove 2002 pg. 83). They can give tremendous and satisfying results even today. Incorporating other helpful means such as birth control and sex education are also very much essential in achieving tangible results.
Mandatory lessons of Child Development and Parenting should be part of the reforms in high school curriculum given the impossibility of an enactment prohibiting teenage pregnancy. Parents or legal guardians should not feel uneasy with safe sex programs or abstinence being taught in class. There are many concerns at stake, but the end justifies the means, at least for this case. The benefits largely outweigh the detrimental effects. The sooner the teenagers are prepared for male-female relationships through proper engagements in their early years, the lesser the probability of giving in to peer pressure (Manlove 2002 pg. 94). Nevertheless, I suppose a law would work much better. It is already performing well in china, though for not for this course; but a close relationship does exist. I presume this would make them more cautious and avoid teenage pregnancy altogether. Parenting is not an easy task at any age, but when parenting is combined with dating, and education, it may become unpalatable. Parents should tackle the issue head on and decide the destiny of their children.