Throughout the United States, teen pregnancy is a major problem and a cause for concern. The United States ranks top among the developed nations in cases of pregnancies before the age of twenty. About 10% of females between 15 and 20 get pregnant every year which is approximately 890000 teens. Statistics show that more than 40% actually get pregnant before the age of 20 (Journal of School Health, 1999).
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In Fayette County especially, the rate of teen pregnancy is worse that the average for the entire state. The result is an increase in birth rate in the two counties. This should be every person’s concern as it impacts on many young women’s lives and the society at large. Since society is also affected, it has a responsibility to step in and fight the problem.
The paper aims at discussing the causes of teen pregnancies in the United States and how they affect parents, children and the society. It will use statistics for Fayette and Shelby County teenage females aged between 10 and 19 from 2002 to 2007.
It will show how specific methods of prevention and programs can and have been used to reduce teen pregnancies and bring change to teen mothers. Sex education has been proved to be effective in reducing unwanted teen pregnancies as well as STDs.
Sex education has been shown to be an effective method in reducing unplanned teen pregnancy
Causes of teen pregnancies
National Campaign to prevent Teen Pregnancy has researched and found out that among the causes of teen pregnancies in the United Sates are low self-esteem and the lack of support from the family as well as the community.
There is a lack of communication that denies the teens a chance to life exposure. In addition, teens are rarely involved in school activities and recreation. This leads to a disconnection from school, family and community and teens direct their energies elsewhere (Memphis and Shelby Health Department).
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Other causes of pregnancies are the use of drugs and lack of guidance from responsible adults. The teens therefore have little knowledge about sexuality and sex. They are also influenced by peer groups into irresponsible behavior (Memphis and Shelby Health Department).
Teenagers need truthful information on the activities of their peers. What they think others are involved in impacts on their behavior. They lack to understand that not all teens are involved in sex and those who are wish they had been more patient.
Effects of teen pregnancies
The Family Health Council raises concern over the statistics of teenage girls who become pregnant. It says that when these girls get pregnant, they are not likely to complete high school education. They therefore lack a chance to gain training after high school. In addition, they become single mothers (Memphis and Shelby Health Department).
Pregnancy for teens changes the direction of their lives and results in struggles that the teens are not prepared to handle. These same struggles are passed on to a new generation of kids. The children born out of teenage mothers are likely to suffer as much or even more than their mothers. They have no chance at solid family life since their own mothers are also children.
Teen pregnancy has been associated with poverty. Shelby is active in transportation and distribution. The households have medium incomes which fall below poverty level (US Bureau of the Census, 1994a). Because of this, the area has problems with prostitution.
Teens therefore are at a high risk of infection with STDs besides pregnancy. Moreover, single parenthood resulting especially from teen pregnancies is also a cause of teen pregnancies. When teens become pregnant, they lose the chance at training and hence an opportunity at employment. Their children thus lack a proper upbringing and an education. This leads to a repeat of the cycle. Lack of sex education especially plays a big role in teen pregnancies.
Sex education has proved effective in reducing the rates of teen pregnancies. By talking to children on sexuality, parents and teachers make them aware of the consequences and therefore make it clear that sex is not a game.
In addition, programs pass information on making wise decisions in life and educating the teens on why getting pregnant at an early age is not part of these wise decisions. The programs also make teens busy and reduce their chances of involving in irresponsible behavior.
At home, parents have the responsibility to talk to their children, both male and female about the dangers of becoming young parents. They have to show them how irresponsible the act is. Schools on the other hand need to imply on students through guidance and health education sessions that sex is not a leisure activity or sport and it is not an acknowledged part of growth.
Sex education should be undertaken before children become sexually active so as to prevent teen pregnancies. This is why, Fayette and Shelby County, and the entire United States has undertaken the initiative of sex education. It has been shown to be an effective method in reducing teen pregnancy in the two counties (Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield helps area schools address teen pregnancy, 2004).
In addition, there are programs that enable parents to talk to their children and educate them on sex. The Fayette and Shelby Counties have faced the experiences of teen pregnancies and are executing programs that help educate young people on decision-making. The programs center on abstinence, preparedness, knowledge, self-control and safe sex.
However, it does not exclude responsible parenting The Family Health Council is one of the institutions that give these programs. It has offices that direct parents to programs which are helpful in guiding them to talk to their children extensively about sexuality. Some of these programs are aimed at assisting teenagers to make wise and healthy choices of their lifestyles.
They include programs for pregnancy prevention. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield has granted 67,000 dollars towards the funding of sex education and awareness programs and wise decisions for the future (Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield helps area schools address teen pregnancy, 2004).
This money was billed out to three health organizations to help execute the programs for Fayette and Shelby County among other regions. Uniontown Hospital Foundation was given the responsibility of Fayette while Washington Hospital Foundation had the Shelby County to take care of.
Through the Foundations, teen pregnancies have reduced from 36 in every 1000 teens to 12 in every 1000 teens from 1999 to 2007 (Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield helps area schools address teen pregnancy, 2004).
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In Shelby, older teens take the initiative to lead middle school students through sessions. They serve as peer educators. The Postponing Sexual Involvement Program was rated by The Journal of Adolescent Health among the top programs in schools that campaign against teen pregnancies.
Through this program, teens have been able to influence their fellow teens by educating them on the dangers of teen pregnancy and irresponsible behavior. The sessions also give teens some occupation so that their time is not used irresponsibly (Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield helps area schools address teen pregnancy, 2004).
In Memphis and the Shelby County, May is the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. The health departments in these counties take part in increasing awareness and prevention of teen pregnancies. This has seen a decline in teen pregnancy from 25.65% in 2006 to 23.6% by the end of that year (Memphis and Shelby Health Department).
In Fayette, the contract manager for the Westmoreland Fayette WIB, Sharon Pugliese, says that the Fayette County has added pregnancy prevention to its plan of service. This plan has worked a long way in reducing school drop-out rates. WIB offers service learning programs that work in reducing teen pregnancies. In these programs, teens do volunteer work in the community.
Such work includes spending time with residents of nursing homes and tutoring young children. The programs include planned time for preparation and reflection on the work the teens will be involved in. This is done through discussions, writing journals and involving in other prearranged activities (Promising partnerships between teen pregnancy prevention and the workforce investment act).
According to National Campaign to Prevent Teen pregnancy, there is a recent decline in teen pregnancies. The programs impacts on the lives of teens by making them feel appreciated. They are able to interact with adults and peers. The activities make them feel that they are also capable of making a difference in other people’s lives.
These programs have seen to the productive lives of teens (Promising Partnerships between teen pregnancy prevention and the workforce investment act). However, statistics show that out of every ten girls in the United States, four become pregnant at least one time before they reach twenty (Memphis and Shelby Health Department).
“Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield helps area schools address teen pregnancy.” 2004.
“Promising partnerships between teen pregnancy prevention and the workforce investment act.” 2009