Teenage pregnancy has become a major problem both in the developing and the developed world alike. It is both a social and health problem that every government is trying to address. Some worlds’ governments have allocated financial support to the relevant ministries and departments in their national budgets.
The government of the United States of America allotted $50 million between 1998 and 2002 to finance programs whose aims were to promote sex abstinence (Arthur 9). In order to address this issue amicably, it is necessary to ascertain the core basis of this problem.
Causes of teen pregnancy
Though causes of teenage pregnancy are almost similar across the world, they differ from one region to another since cultures, values, and norms vary. Human beings also are differentiated in terms of religion and social, economic status, and currently, technological advancement, which is usually pegged towards the above-mentioned factors, all of which affect the trends of teenage pregnancy across the world.
A report by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy for the United States of America, religious faith makes teens delay their sexual activities. It continues to report Regardless of gender or race, teens who are seriously affiliated to certain religious groups are more careful as they make decisions pertaining to their sex. Girls with no religious background have higher chances of engaging in irresponsible sexual activities.
Among the many factors affecting adolescent pregnancy is a parenting method. The way one is brought up determines one’s behavior at the latter stage of life, including teenage.
Teenagers brought up by single and teenage mothers have a higher possibility of having sex, but use contraception at first sex by age 15. Moreover, teenage boys coming from single-parent families were more likely to have been involved in a sexual encounter by the age of 15 (Best start Resource Centre 5).
At the same time, teens tend to be resistive as they work their way to independence. They, therefore, need a lot of parental guidance at this stage. Teens brought up under a free and careless lifestyle tend to be careless and indulge themselves in alcohol and drug abuse, exposing them to early and unprotected sexual behaviors.
However, teens brought up under an authoritative style where they are guided, rewarded when they excel and get punished for doing wrong, establish a stronger and friendly relationship with the parent, and do not resist the advice they get from them.
Children brought up by authoritarian parents where parent’s authority is forcefully impacted on the child without any guidance tend to resist, especially at this stage of life, which is characterized by resistance and crave for independence.
Without their parent’s knowledge, the teens engage themselves in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, which eventually lead to irresponsible sexual behaviors.
Early sexual intercourse is the primary cause of teen pregnancy. When they reach adolescence, most teens think they have reached a point in life where they are independent and free to do anything they feel right to do with their bodies.
This excitement, in addition to the influx of hormones in their bodies, makes them engage in risky sexual behaviors, especially if they do not have a good relationship with their parents or guardians. Mostly, they get information from their peers who are in the same physiological and psychological platforms.
There has been no consensus as to what causes teen pregnancies, but health officials and social workers agree that teenagers today have more sophisticated sexual lifestyles than before. Most of them have their first encounter at or before age 15 (Cherry, Dillon, and Rugh 6).
Closely related to this is the lack of information on contraceptive use. Most teens engage in unprotected sexual intercourse. They ignore the use of contraceptives due to lack of knowledge, religious affiliations, or culture, and also they may have no capacity to afford or access them.
They do not get the information they require regarding their sexuality from their parents, who might shy away from discussing sexuality. They, therefore, engage themselves in unprotected sex, which causes pregnancy at their age, in addition to sexually transmitted infections, among many other negative effects of early teenage sex.
Poverty is also another major cause of teen pregnancy across the world. Lack of basic human needs like foods, shelter, clothes, and even education causes young girls to use their bodies in exchange for these basic needs because they have no other means to acquire them. Some do it as a business (commercial sex work) in order to earn a living (Best start Resource Centre 3).
Others do so to assist their parents in bringing up their young siblings. Due to lack of education, such teenagers lack basic information on the dangers they are exposing themselves to, associated with early sex. Most of them do not have the capacity to negotiate with their sexual partners who are likely to be older and financially well-up men, leaving them vulnerable to the effects of unprotected sex (Forman-Brunell 729).
Another cause of teen pregnancy is the lack of guidance and counseling in schools. Most parents expect their children to get information regarding their sexuality at schools.
On the other hand, the school curriculum is not always developed in a manner to offer all the required information regarding sexuality to teenagers. Teens end up getting information from wrong sources, mostly from peers and the media, who happens to be very great influencers and socializers at this stage of life.
Outcomes of teen pregnancy
Abortion is one outcome of teen pregnancy, as in most cases, teen pregnancies are unwanted and unplanned. The male partner may deny the responsibility of leaving the teenage girl with a choice to singly carry the pregnancy to term or terminate it.
In some instances, the girl’s family may reject her because of cultural or religious beliefs, as it may be perceived to bring disgrace to the family. According to Donnie and Stanley, many women who have an abortion are not married, are below 25 years and come from a poor family background (55).
Due to isolation and humiliation by the family, the girl remains with no option but to terminate it. Most countries have not legalized abortion, and such services are not offered in public/private health facilities. Under such circumstances, the helpless girl has the only option of seeking such help from unqualified health caregivers, which can be fatal.
Another effect of teen pregnancy is adolescent mothers who are mostly single as most fathers in such circumstances abscond their responsibility. Although the father’s presence may be good for the girl, the relationship may not be good to the rest of the people who would offer social support because of the strong attachment to the father (Annette 28).
Moreover, most of these mothers are also not prepared to meet the motherhood challenges. They do not have the capacity to bring up their children without their parent’s support, as they are supposed to be in school. In case the parents do not have the capacity to offer assistance, the teenage mother is left alone struggling and is not able to meet the child’s basic needs.
This results in children who are physically and cognitively disadvantaged. According to East and Felice, the abortion rates among the teenagers remained fairly high at 43 per 1000 teenagers since the 1970s because of rejection and associated emotional problems (3).
In many cases, teens are not able to produce enough breast milk to feed their children, and at the same time, they do not have finances to cater to their own health needs and that of their children (Columbus 44). Low birth weights and preterm are also other outcomes of teenage pregnancy.
Teenage mothers are less likely to gain the required weight during the pregnancy period, resulting in low birth weight in infants. Further, the children with low birth weights are associated with some childhood and infant related complications resulting in an increase in infant mortality rates.
Underage and overage mothers may not be able to carry their pregnancy to term. Most teenagers do not have the emotional, financial, and physiological capacity to meet the requirement of a healthy pregnancy. To calm down their mental state, some end up indulging in drugs or other negative social activities. All these factors complicate the pregnancy with an outcome of either low birth weight, if not preterm.
The possible solutions to teen pregnancy include educating them about their sexuality. This type of education should be done in schools by the teachers. Sexuality should be an issue to be addressed from the elementary level as this is the time most children enter adolescence.
Parents should also be advised to establish a good relationship with their children as they are likely to get advice from them. Parents should be their children’s role models and should spend considerable time with their children (Campos 93).
Best Start Resource Centre. Teen Pregnancy: Out of School Approaches. Toronto, 2005. Web.
Campos David. Sex, youth, and sex education: a reference handbook; Contemporary Education issues ABC-CLIO, New York, 2002.
Cherry, Andrew, Dillon Mary, Rugh Douglas. Teenage pregnancy: a global view. Greenwood Publishing Group, New York, 2001.
Columbus H. Frank. Advances in Psychology Research, Volume 49, Nova Publishers. Michigan, 2007
East Patricia and Felice Marianne. Adolescent pregnancy and parenting: findings from a racially diverse sample Routledge. New Jersey, 1996.
Forman-Brunell Miriam. Girlhood in America: an encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO, 2001
Jones Dionne and Battle Stanley. Information Teenage pregnancy: developing Strategies for Change in the Twenty-first Century. Transaction Publishers, 1990
Rickel Annette. Teen Pregnancy and Parenting. Publisher: Taylor & Francis 1989 Shirley Arthur, Surviving Teen Pregnancy: Your Choices, Dreams, and
Decisions. Buena Park, CA: Morning Glory Press, 1996.