Teenage pregnancy is now recognized to be a major social issue because teenagers are now increasingly involving in sexual intercourse at an early age, creating severe complexities not only for themselves but also for the society at large. Associated problems include larger numbers of unmarried mothers and social and economic issues that are raised in meeting the challenges that emerge from such circumstances. Invariably, early pregnancy leads to devastating consequences for teenagers by way of adverse psychological and emotional impacts on them during and after pregnancy. In developed countries such as the US, the rates of teenage pregnancy were initially very high but have been declining in recent years.
Nevertheless, such rates are much higher than prevailing rates in other parts of the world and thus raise concerns about finding solutions in meeting the challenges emerging from the health problems and psychological status of teenage girls that give birth to children at such a young age. It is obvious that the problem needs to be resolved immediately before the numbers of teenage families escalate to uncontrollable levels. Teenage pregnancy is known to enhance risks for both the mother and the child. This paper holds that the programs directed so far towards reducing teenage pregnancy have not been very successful and major changes need to be made in social policies by including adoption of life options that provide education and job opportunities so that teens do not involve in unwanted and harmful sexual activities.
It is correct to say that teenage pregnancy has become a major area of social concern because larger numbers of teenagers across the world are engaging in sexual activities. When teenage girls become pregnant and give birth to children they not only create an unwarranted and untimely burden on themselves but also increase the burden on society, because young girls are not mature enough for bringing up children. In addition, by becoming mothers at an extremely young age they deprive themselves of education and expose themselves to economic and psychological hardships that prove to be detrimental to their overall development and future life.
According to DeRidder (1993), teenagers in America are more active sexually in comparison to teenagers in other countries. Given that larger numbers of teenagers are sexually active, there is a tendency amongst them to become parents at an early age, in addition to becoming more prone to giving birth to children in later years. Child Trends (2016) have come up with an influential and impressive pictorial representation of the problem of teen pregnancy (Figure 1), through which it is apparent that even though the rate of teen pregnancy in the US has declined in recent years, the current rate for the country is amongst the highest in the world, thus implying that major efforts need to be taken in further reducing the prevailing rates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017), which investigated teen pregnancy patterns in the US in 2015, “a total of 229,715 babies were born to women aged 15–19 years, for a birth rate of 22.3 per 1,000 women in this age group” (p.1). However, even though the rate at which teenage girls are giving birth has been declining over the years, the figure remains high in comparison to other countries of the world and causes severe social issues.
It emerges that it is crucial to discourage young girls from becoming mothers at an early age. In this regard, DeRidder (1993) asserted that in comparison to adult women, teenage mothers are more likely to develop medical complexities such as labor problems, toxemia, anemia and cervical cancer. Even though most teenage mothers do not get married, those that do marry tend to get divorced within a short time. Moreover, teenage mothers have a tendency of becoming pregnant more frequently in comparison to older women.
From another perspective, it is apparent from research carried out on the issue that developed nations have been characterized by higher rates of teenage pregnancy. The US has historically demonstrated the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in comparison to European nations. Environmental and social factors such as social disorganization and poverty, poor parental support and high rates of divorce are known to place teenage girls at higher risks of becoming pregnant. In addition, individual factors such as an early attainment of puberty, inability to cope with peers, aggressive behavior, the lack of future potential and poor academic performance also enhance risks of teenage pregnancy (Card, 1999).
Despite the attempts of governments to reduce risks of teenage pregnancy, problems persist on account of hurdles occurring in implementing pregnancy prevention evaluation programs effectively. Parent-child communication programs, curriculum-based programs and youth-focused programs have not been implemented efficiently in attaining the desired outcomes. Most of the ongoing mass media and community-based programs do not include the required curriculum. That is why evaluation programs face obstacles. Targeting initiatives do not reach the required target population that is at risk. Exhaustive attempts have not yet been made to identify the at-risk youth and many of these attempts are not successful because a high percentage of schools do not cooperate in implementing the programs.
According to Margolis and Roper (2014), many of the at-risk teens have earning responsibilities, because of which they do not get opportunities to participate in community programs directed at educating them about healthy and responsible sexual behaviors. Philliber (2015) has argued that many of the communication programs targeting parent-child relationships prove to be ineffective because many parents are not forthcoming in attending them. They claim that they are unable to attend such programs in view of their preoccupation in providing for the family.
Solutions to the issue of teen-pregnancy are best determined by evaluating the program characteristics that are most effective in different situations. It is important to carry out research in regard to evaluating the attitudes, knowledge levels and behavioral changes that occur after implementing ongoing intervention strategies (Stid, Neuhoff, Burkhauser, & Seeman, 2013). In effect, programs involving the change of attitudes and behaviors in the context of teenage perceptions towards sex need to focus on dealing with the circumstances and environment to which sexually promiscuous teenagers are exposed (Philliber, 2015).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017), “In 2015, a total of 229,715 babies were born to women aged 15–19 years, for a birth rate of 22.3 per 1,000 women in this age group. This is another record low for U.S. teens and a drop of 8% from 2014. Birth rates fell 9% for women aged 15–17 years and 7% for women aged 18–19 years” (p.1). It is apparent from Figure 2 that births given by teenage girls in the US have been consistently declining amongst different communities since 2007, but the fact remains that the number of births given by teenage girls in the US continues to be quite high, obviously highlighting the need to take urgent and proactive measures to reverse the trend.
Under the prevailing circumstances, the most ideal strategy for reducing the high rate of teenage pregnancy is to introduce sex education programs that should be applicable to young adolescents between the age of 10 to 19 years and to both primary school students and high school students. This program should be focused on educating young adolescents about their sexuality and about how they can abstain from sexual engagements until they are through with their education and are ready to raise a family.
This plan will be most effective because most of the teenagers engage in sex as they try to experiment and explore their sexuality and understand emotional changes that they experience during the adolescent period. According to James-Brightful (2015), due to the lack of appropriate guidance, they are also easily influenced by their peers to engage in sex and eventually end up getting pregnant.
This approach will succeed because it will equip the adolescents with knowledge on how to handle the pressure that comes along with peer influence and how to control their feelings and emotions in avoiding sexual engagements. Although unprotected sex is the main factor that contributes to teenage pregnancies, giving contraceptives to young adolescents is not a good solution at all because it will increase immorality among teenagers in creating hopes that contraceptives will save them from getting pregnant.
DeRidder (1993) has highlighted the significance of educational interventions because of the strong link between teenage pregnancy and low academic outcomes. Sex education programs providing information on contraceptive methods, abortion, family planning and human reproduction should be initiated in schools at an early age. In addition, parents should be encouraged to provide sex education to their children at an early age so that they are fully aware of the consequences of involving in early sexual behaviors.
Such initiatives should be supplemented with school sex education programs. According to SIECCAN (2007), sex and HIV education programs are very effective in making teenagers aware of the kind of sexual behaviors that they should adopt. This is best done through community involvement, health care referral, mentoring, and tutoring. Outreach activities and workshops should be organized with the involvement of families in order to remove teenagers’ reluctance to discuss sex.
Focus should also be made on organizing male-only programs where male facilitators motivate young boys to freely discuss sex-related issues. A major need is to deal with cultural sensitivity through family and community groups by involving culturally diverse staff that can deal with teenagers. In addition, programs focused on promoting future options for education and employment are effective in engaging youth in more constructive activities.
There are many benefits associated with validating the positive aspects of motherhood and pregnancy while providing teens with better options in developing and succeeding in life. Prevention programs focusing on the social environment by improving educational and employment opportunities will reduce teens’ focus on sexual activities, which will allow them to become responsible adults. Such programs will enable the youth to view sex more responsibly and to make decisions about sex and relationships in keeping with their circumstances within the wider context of society and family, thus creating conscientious and flourishing societies. Implementing the given suggestions will provide positive outcomes because a larger percentage of teenagers will be targeted.
Moreover, implementing these strategies does not require making legal arrangements such as those that are required in the context of abortion and use of contraceptives. In addition, costs in terms of human personnel, time and money can be easily met as they do not require massive deployment of personnel; what needs to be done is a change in a strategy, which will not entail heavy increase in costs. Nevertheless, irrespective of the costs involved, the benefits of using a new strategy will be substantial in the long run.
In effect, the extra cost will offset heavy economic social costs associated with raising and caring for newborn children and their mothers. It will considerably reduce the struggle experienced by single-parent families, especially under harsh economic conditions. In addition, it will help teenagers in avoiding adverse emotional and psychological effects emerging from early pregnancies. More importantly, they will also be able to continue with their education since they will have no family responsibilities. They can commit all their time to education and achieve better academic outcomes for themselves.
This paper has shown that teen pregnancy is a complicated social problem that is impacted by varied social, economic and cultural factors and is associated with wide-ranging moral perspectives. Teenagers are unaware of the adverse impacts of early pregnancy because of the lack of the required information about birth control and harm associated with sexual promiscuity, while their socio-economic environment may not provide the required facilities to deal with unwanted pregnancies.
Many teens that are sexually active do not use birth control measures regularly, which is why it is necessary to make interventions in providing them with the required information and support. A positive aspect about programs that deal with the problem of teenage pregnancy is that they allow teenagers to make better choices in respect of sexual health and decisions about pregnancy. Better educational and intervention programs directed at making teens realize the harmful impacts of early pregnancy will help them in adopting positive attitudes to their sexual life. In addition, given that such programs will be implemented under the watchful eyes of schools and families, their success rates will be higher.
However, it is important to note that a single organization cannot appropriately resolve all the problems associated with teenage pregnancy. The main objective of remedial programs should be to empower teenagers with the required skills and knowledge so that they can avoid unwanted pregnancies, while also exercising their liberty to make informed decisions that may also pertain to early pregnancy. In effect, it is required to use a varied mix of strategies such as providing the required resources and information, and supplementing them with support required by teens that are pregnant or those that are already mothers. The most effective strategies for dealing with the issue of teenage pregnancy are implemented with the involvement of schools, families, and communities.
Card, J. J. (1999). Teen pregnancy prevention: Do any programs work? Annual Review of Public Health, 20(1), 257-285.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). About teen pregnancy.
Child Trends (2016). Teen pregnancy.
DeRidder, L. M. (1993). Teenage pregnancy: Etiology and educational interventions. Educational Psychology Review, 5(1), 87-107.
James-Brightful, M. (2015). Engage. Inspire. Prevent: Strategies for educating teens on sexual violence. New York, NY: SisterTrust.
Philliber, S. (2015). Evaluating teen pregnancy prevention programs: Decades of evolving strategies and practices. Societies, 5(1), 631-645.
Margolis, A.L., & Roper, A.Y. (2014). Practical experience from the office of adolescent health’s large scale implementation of an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program. J. Adolesc. Health, 54 (1), S10–S14.
SIECCAN. (2007). Update report on teen pregnancy prevention.
Stid, D., Neuhoff, A., Burkhauser, L., & Seeman, B. (2013). What does it take to implement evidence-based practices? A teen pregnancy prevention program shows the way.