The issue of adolescent pregnancy is of concern to the US policymakers because of its effects. It is considered an urgent issue in modern American society because a number of lives have been lost through illegal abortions and neglect. The major risks associated with adolescent pregnancy include health problems, increase in school dropouts, reduced career aspirations, and poverty.
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The issue of adolescent pregnancy has been of concern to the extent of formulating policies aimed at empowering single mothers. In this article, the history of adolescent pregnancy is addressed amicably. Furthermore, the article analyzes the causes of adolescent pregnancy, as well as its consequences. Scholars note that teenage pregnancies are in the decrease in the United States. However, adolescent pregnancy is a social phenomenon that should be addressed with urgency. Statistics show that at least one million teenagers become pregnant each year.
The US is the leading country among industrialized states in terms of adolescent pregnancies. Out of ten pregnancies recorded, four occur in women below twenty years. National statistics prove that women below fifteen years become pregnant each year. Teenage pregnancies affect the economy of the country in a number of ways.
For instance, adolescent mothers rely on the government and other non-governmental organizations for basic services, such as healthcare and medication. Teen mothers face serious social challenges, including increased school dropouts. Mothers below fifteen years rarely complete high school while mothers below twenty years rarely proceed to colleges.
Adolescent Pregnancy in Early America
It is factual that teenage pregnancy has been an issue of concern for the last two centuries yet policymakers have placed much focus on the issue in the last two decades. The issue of pregnancy in the previous decades was not discussed in the public due to the skewed societal structure. Since the 1970s, scholars started conducting research to establish the prevalence of the problem in society.
In native societies, such as the Puritan society, a teenager was allowed to carry a pregnancy at any age because it showed maturity and readiness to take up feminine responsibilities. During colonialism, teenage pregnancies were considered economic hazards because of limited resources. The church mistreated adolescent mothers because they were considered immoral.
In this case, teenage mothers were forced to marry the old men who were divorced or widowed. In the 19th century, there was a decline in teenage pregnancies because of the influence of the church. The church urged young individuals to exercise self-control and self-discipline. In the early 20th century, women were ensured that they marry before they could give birth. The problem was serious because some teenagers were forced to drop out of school to avoid stigmatization and shame (Sawyer, Pinciaro, & Anderson-Sawyer, 1998).
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Teenage pregnancies have been common in the US since independence yet policymakers have not taken time to evaluate the effects of the problem. The society is changing at the rate that many had not predicted. In the 1950s, teenage mothers married those responsible for pregnancies to legalize the union. However, this culture is no longer upheld in modern society.
Few men would take responsibility by marrying the girl they impregnated. This is mainly attributed to the unfavorable economic conditions that impede the financial capability of individuals. After the reforms witnessed in the 1960s, feminist scholars noted that adolescent pregnancies were an issue of concern because it affected the capacity of women to achieve academic goals. It is required that a woman abandons school to take care of the baby. After the 1960s reforms, feminists proposed that girls be allowed to continue with education even after becoming pregnant. Between 1960 and 1975, there was a fifty percent increase in unwed pregnancies among adolescents.
Even though sex before marriage is not allowed in American society, over forty-seven percent of youths admit having engaged in sex before marriage. American society detests unwed pregnancies because teenage mothers are never supported. The society believes that teenagers should be sexually dormant because the cost of bringing up a child is unbearable to adolescent mothers. A study conducted by Tuner in 2004 suggested that adolescent females have negative views towards teenage motherhood (Kraft, 2009).
Causes of Adolescent Pregnancies
In the United States, scholars have delved into research to establish the causes of early pregnancies in the country. Some factors, such as family organization, age, aims, and sexual mistreatment, have been reported to influence teenage pregnancies. These factors are believed to cause teenage pregnancies. The factors are explored in detail in the subsequent sections.
The Family Structure
Scholars and policymakers believe that the structure of the family influences the sexual behavior of the child in a number of ways. In the US, adolescent females engage in sexual relationships for purposes of comfort. They relate with stable men for short periods to enable them to survive. Some adolescents feel that their parents do not provide adequate love and hence they opt to relate with strangers who provide adequate affection.
Through interaction, the self-esteem of adolescents is enhanced. Unfortunately, adolescent females end up becoming pregnant in the hands of people they trusted before. Single-parent families have many issues that force adolescents to seek relationships outside the family unit. For instance, the adolescent might be interested in interacting with the person of opposite gender yet the father figure is unavailable in the family. This forces the adolescent female to look for somebody outside the family who can act as a father.
A family with a stable structure has high chances of bringing up the adolescent child in accordance with the societal rules and regulations. In this regard, the chances of adolescent pregnancies in such a family are minimal. Scholars note that the family is in a better position to prevent teenage pregnancies because it interacts with the child on a daily basis.
Families without the father figure experience serious problems because the girl child lacks the guidance of the father. In families, some parents do not discuss issues related to sex with their children. Children from such families are likely to engage in premarital sex. It is therefore advised that parents take responsibility by ensuring that they introduce sex education to their children.
Age at First Intercourse
In modern society, scholars observe that puberty occurs at an early age as compared to the previous years. This is attributed to the foods that human beings consume. Similarly, adolescents tend to engage in sex at an earlier age because of the early changes in their bodies. In fact, it is possible to find a sexually experienced adolescent in American society. From 1988 to 1995, the number of adolescents who had sex before attaining the age of fourteen doubled. It should be noted that the puberty age is not directly related to pregnancies.
However, early engagement in sex predisposes the adolescent female to teenage pregnancy. Adolescents are always in constant pressure from friends to engage in sex. Moreover, families have lost their primary socializing roles to the media and the peer. All these combine to influence the teenager to engage in premarital sex. Research shows that adolescent females whose mothers were victims of teenage pregnancies have high chances of becoming mothers at a tender age. Moreover, families with teenage mothers would witness adolescent pregnancies because of peer influence (Yorgason, Linville, & Zitzman, 2008).
In American society, some adolescents believe that economic forces threaten their lives. Teenagers conclude that they would not make it in life because their chances of success are minimal. They prefer carrying pregnancies in the hope that whoever impregnated them would proceed to marry them. Moreover, some adolescents might opt to carry a pregnancy because they could not continue with their studies. Some prefer carrying pregnancies because their families are abusive and hard on them.
Adolescents might think that attaining post-secondary education is impossible for them because of limited resources. Others do not have options in case they fail to proceed with their studies. Carrying pregnancies become an option for such adolescent females. In most families, there are no role models to show teenagers the way.
Many parents do not take an initiative of bringing role models to talk to their children. Adolescents end up becoming pregnant since it is the best option. Some are encouraged by the idea that marriage is the easiest way of attaining social status. The pregnancy is used by the teenage to claim marriage. Some adolescent mothers believe that giving birth would make them sexually acceptable (Burris, Frechting, Salsman, & Carlson, 2009).
In many families, children are often abused sexually. The child may change her perception regarding sex and end up developing negative sexual behaviors. Adolescent females may end up initiating sex at a tender age because they were introduced to it when they were still very young. This ends up affecting their lives forever. Teenagers may as well as develop a promiscuous behavior, which is a health hazard to the adolescent girl. Research confirms that teenagers are left with negative feelings regarding sexual abuse, which leads them to behaviors that cause pregnancies. A number of adolescents claim that their first sexual encounters were voluntary.
However, research shows that over forty percent of girls aged between thirteen and fourteen years had involuntary sexual intercourse with an older colleague. A study conducted in 1998 confirmed that a teenager who was abused at childhood would probably become pregnant at a tender age. The study established that stepfathers or close relatives had abused sexually over two-thirds of teenage mothers.
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The abused women felt a sense of low self-esteem and depression, which forced them to engage in sexual activities. Adolescent mothers are known to have children whose fathers are over twenty years. This study shows that sexual abuse is the major cause of adolescent pregnancies in the US and other parts of the world (Reifler, 2006).
Effects of Adolescent Pregnancies
Adolescent pregnancies have implications to the mother, as well as the child. The effects are a long time because the mother might be worse economically. Furthermore, the father of the child might be reluctant to take responsibility. The society does not care about the adolescent mother because it is believed that she is immoral and careless.
This stereotyping affects the existence of adolescent mothers because it does not provide them with opportunities. The teenage mother is advised to understand the aspects of adolescent motherhood and its consequences in case she is to cope with the challenges. There are a number of consequences. Some of them are discussed in the subsequent sections.
An adolescent mother cannot be aware of the opportunities presented by the egalitarian society because of their academic incapacities. Consequently, adolescent mothers end up attaining diminutive career aspirations. Moreover, they can only achieve less prestigious goals because they can be employed in less [prestigious occupations.
Their job choices are few as compared to their age mates who are not pregnant. In their entire lifetime, adolescent mothers would be unable to attend college and seek professional work. The economy end ups generating a huge number of unemployed youths. Women who give birth at a tender age would end up performing less prestigious duties as compared to their compatriots who give birth at an advanced age. The unemployment rate for adolescent mothers is very high in the US. Pregnant youths can simply be employed in sectors with an oversupply of workers (Rich, 2001).
The future of the adolescent mother is unpredictable because she cannot provide the basic needs to the baby. For instance, the adolescent mother is unable to educate herself and the child. This would expose the family to economic uncertainties. Moreover, the adolescent mother might be incapable of attending postnatal care because of insufficient funds.
This complicates the health of the baby and the mother. The child would definitely achieve low academic levels because the mother would be struggling to bring him or her up. In case of an inability, the mother would not be able to support the child, which might lead to the street beginning. Research shows that women who give birth at the tender age are likely to have many children as compared to women who delay their births. This is a big problem because the mother would have many children whom she cannot support. Moreover, children would suffer more because they do not have a father figure (Cottrell, Hansen, & Close, 2008).
Apart from social effects, the adolescent mother is also faced with economic challenges. The adolescent mother is unable to achieve high academic standards that would be needed in the labor market. Adolescent mothers depend heavily on the government, which is unpredictable. Adolescent pregnancies affect the GDP of the country because the country is forced to spend resources on providing services such as healthcare and food (Williams, Zenilman, Nanda, & Hayley, 2008).
Teenage pregnancies force females to abandon the places they call home because of stigmatization and shame. Such female adolescents end up in the streets. The government uses many resources to provide security to street families. In fact, reported cases of mental sickness are high among street dwellers. Street dwellers struggle to put something on the table every day. This means that their major concern is related to basic needs.
Teenage pregnancy in the US is an issue of concern to policymakers and implementers. This is because of its effects on the economy and society. A number of factors, as discussed above cause teenage pregnancy. However, the social structure is the main cause of teenage pregnancy. Teenagers engage in pre-marital sex because of hard economic situations and negligence from parents. The effects of teenage pregnancy on the economy are serious to the extent that the government has taken initiatives to stop the menace. However, the problem is expected to persist because of deformed policies and the growing spirit of individualism.
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Cottrell, B., Hansen, M., & Close, F. (2008). Vaginal Douching Among University Women in the Southeastern United States. Journal of American College Health 56(4), 415-421.
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