Teenpregnancy is an issue of concern in most societies and nationsregardless of their level of economic and social development. TheUnited States is not an exception and has the highest rate of teenagepregnancy among the industrialized nations. The problem of teenpregnancy has been socially constructed in different ways. It isperceived that, teen pregnancy is associated with dropping out ofschool, poor social economic background, single parenthood, drugabuse among other factors. Teens who fall pregnant face a lot ofchallenges and also place their children at risk (Kelly, 2007).Prevention programs are mainly aimed at minimizing incidences of teenpregnancy by empowering the youth to make informed decision thatdetermine their future.
SocialConstruction of Teen Pregnancy
Thereare three broad ways in which teen pregnancy has been constructed asa social issue. The three ways are discussed below
TeenPregnancy and Welfare
Itis generally known that most of teen mothers are from low-incomefamilies with no stable income or other support means. As such, youngmothers are not able to sustain themselves and their children and arethus viewed as in need of social or state support. Lack of adequatefinancial assistance given to teen mothers and their children hasoften been attributed to the change in social system. In the past,shotgun weddings used to arrest the financial crises facing teenmothers. The forced marriages to the people responsible for thepregnancy of teenagers somehow provided the teen mothers with somesort of financial support (Neiterman, 2012). Possibly, the stateconcern on the issue of teen pregnancy is in need to minimize thecost related with sustaining teen mothers and their offspring. In theUnited States, this has been reflected in state’s enactment ofpolicies punishing those men who engage in sexual relations withteenage girls including charging them with rape. Some states havealso put in place legislations requiring such men to pay for theupkeep of the teen mother and the child. In the recent, campaigns toprevent teen pregnancy has gained popularity across states.
Besidesthe poor social economic background of teen mothers, there is alsoconcern over the future prospects of teen mothers. They are usuallyseen as less likely to complete their schooling hence lack ofemployment to enhance their lives and that of their children.Consequently, child’s level of education is directly proportion tothe mother’s education level, teen mothers are perceived as leadingthe poverty cycle (Neiterman, 2012).
TeenPregnancy and Health Concern
Anotherconstruction of teen pregnancy as a social problem revolves aroundthe health consequences related to teen pregnancy. ishighly attributed to high number of health complication to teenagemothers as well as their children. Health professionals highlightsome negative health outcome of teen pregnancy for instance low birthweight and indirect health outcomes such as poor social environmentin which children of teen mothers are brought up and lack ofreceptiveness on the part of the teen mothers to medical advice suchas lack of prenatal care and drug abuse (Neiterman, 2012).
Themedical impediments of teen pregnancy are normally linked to higheroccurrences of illness and death. According to Neiterman (2012) teenpregnancy is associated to low birth weight. Pregnancy inducedhypertension, placenta previa, anemia are some of the other riskfactors highlighted by health professionals as health outcome forteen mothers. The negative health outcomes are further exacerbatedby the fact that teen mothers do not seek prenatal care as a resultlack of access or unwillingness to these services. Neiterman (2012)have linked health risks of teen pregnancy to the deviant behavior ofteen mothers. For example drug use in teenage and malnutrition resultto health complications of teens. Besides, the poor socialenvironments where teen mothers are usually raised also expose themto violence, stress and poor physical and psychological wellness ofthe expectant teen.
TeenPregnancy and Morality
Thethird construction of teen pregnancy as a social issue is their linkto morality. Pregnancy is perceived as a rite of passage and a changein social status for women among middle class western culture. Through formal and informal means, images of the perceived, sociallysuitable motherhood are defined. Besides the pregnancy suitable age,(not too old or too young) it is normal to approve women who delayparenting until they are through with their education. The point intheir profession at which a woman feels free to devote herself tomotherhood is perceived as a sign of readiness to bear a child(Neiterman, 2012). Despite single motherhood becoming increasinglyacceptable in the recent years, women are still expected to beengaged in significant heterosexual relations before fallingpregnant. In addition, women are anticipated to prepare emotionally(by learning about motherhood) and physically (by adopting a healthydiet plan and steady intake of vitamins) for motherhood and to beprepared to exhibit their mothering abilities through prenataldevelopment, attachment to the child, and learning to sacrifice forthe child a trait that is closely linked to ideal motherhood in thesociety. Ultimately, pregnancy is generally constructed as a highlyenviable, planned event, as opposed to an unfortunate incident(Neiterman, 2012).
Teenagerswho become pregnant digress from this model of motherhood. Theyusually come from disadvantaged families, and do not wait to finishtheir education or begin a career. Pregnancy in teenage is hencepresented as an accident resulting from immoral behavior such asalcohol or drug abuse. In the context where teens decide to continuetheir pregnancies and support their decision as a willfully madechoice, their allegations are constructed as a response ofemotionally unstable immature girls with low self esteem gettingpregnant unplanned (Neiterman, 2012).
TheExtent of Teen Pregnancy
TheUnited States records the highest rate of teen pregnancy as comparedto other developed countries. In a 2006 report, almost 750,000 teensin the U.S aged between 15 and 19 years fall pregnant every year.Similarly, 235,436 infants were born in 2006 of mothers teen mothersaged 15 to 19 years. Over 90 percent of these pregnancies are notplanned for. In addition to the individual consequences for teenagemothers, there are various consequences linked to this issue. Forinstance, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that,curbing teenage pregnancy could save U.S taxpayers $9 billionannually, basically from healthcare, incarceration, and foster carecosts (Center for Disease Control, 2009).
Althoughteen pregnancy is a universal social problem, certain groups are atan increased risk. A Vital Statistics Report carried out in 2009,Hispanics and African-American teen girls appeared to record thehighest birth rate in that order (Sarantaki, and Koutelekos, N.D). Inaddition, teen pregnancy is determined by education and economicbackground. Teenagers who have children are probable to experiencevarious challenges that their peers are able to avoid. The teenmothers are more likely to be and stay single parents for the rest oftheir lives. As contrasted to their peers who wait to attain ages 20or 21 to bear a child, teenage mothers are more prone to drop out ofschool. These undesirable outcomes are not partial to teen mothers.Teenage boys who become fathers also have an increased rate ofdropping out of school and reduce their earning potential than thoseteens without children (Sarantaki, and Koutelekos, N.D).
Thereare physical consequences related to teen pregnancy. Physiologically,teenagers who become pregnant are at high risk for reduced maternalweight gain, hence an increased maternal mortality rate. Besides,teenage pregnancy is linked to diseases like anemia pregnancyinduced hypertension as well as sexually transmitted infections.Children born of teen mothers also face physical risks. The infantshave 50 percent risk of low birth weight as compared to infants bornto mature women of 20 years or older (Kelly, 2007). They are alsovulnerable to death within the first 4 weeks of life. Furthermore,children born of teenage mothers are highly probable to have reducedcognitive achievement and proficiency scores when joiningkindergarten, have chronic medical issues, portray behavior problems,depend entirely on publically offered health care, and become schooldrop outs. Furthermore, children born of teen mothers are highlylikely to become pregnant at teenage.
Causesof Teen Pregnancy
Teenpregnancy is as a result of unsafe sexual behavior, lack ofcontraception use, substance abuse, multiple sexual partners, pooracademic performance, school dropout, low family income, deprivation,or single parenthood (Sarantaki, and Koutelekos, N.D).
Thereare various approaches that have been adopted to address teenagepregnancy. These approaches range from sex education to abstinencecampaigns. They vary from state to state, even though they have acommon theme. Some of the approaches for addressing teen pregnancyinclude
IncorporatingSex education in Public Schools
Somestates have incorporated sex education as a policy issue to addressteen pregnancy. Basically, sex education entail educating teenagerson sexuality and the need to abstain until they are through witheducation and ready to start a family. In Mississippi for instance,schools are not required to offer sex education although thoseschools that offer it must promote abstinence from sex and sexualactivities and teach the harm that comes with premarital sex. To someextent, sex education in schools may teach teenagers aboutcontraception and the benefits of abstaining (Kelly, 2007).
Thisis a program that is influenced by long term comprehensive approachto sexuality education. Rather than being the key focus of theprogram, sexual and reproductive health education is a component ofthe plan. The New York-based Children’s Aid Society (CAS) is anexample of such a program (Best Start, N.D). The program has severalcomponents including academic support, arts opportunities, familylife and sexuality education, individual sports training, a job club,mental health and medical care (Best Start, N.D). The program entailsdaily activities delivered and implemented by trained staff. Thestaff and members establish an intimate relationship that runs for afew years. Relatives or family members are urged to participate inthis program that runs all year round.
Thisis an out of school oriented program. The program includes radio,dance, visual arts, and theatre. Artistic expressions enables youthto acquire various life skills like problem solving, negotiation,communication, decision making and also provide a platform for selfexpression and creativity (Best Start, N.D).
Thisis an important youth engagement component which creates a platformfor self expression and enhances critical and creative initiatives tosocial problems. It is used both in teen pregnancy prevention andyouth development. Popular and participatory theatre are conceptsmost applicable for the program (Best Start, N.D). It gives empowersthe members of the society who conventionally lack power andinfluence. The program seeks to engage the youth in production oftheatre activities, making them understand issues and make informeddecisions.
Sportsbased initiatives are chief parts of most youth developmentinitiatives. Sports are important in enhancing self-esteem andpromoting cooperative and pro-social behavior. Pregnancy preventionis linked to the positive benefits of sports based activities (BestStart, N.D). Most youth in poor social environment engage in illicitbehavior such as drug use as a way to pass time. Sporting acts as adistraction to such behavior, keeping teenagers preoccupied withdeveloping their talents. Through sporting, important life skills arelearnt including boosting self confidence, self discipline, andgenerate a sense of personal accomplishment which is critical ininfluencing decisions.
Theseare programs that just like sex education try to educate the youth onthe need for planned pregnancy, and the need to avoid pregnancy atteenage. They include contraception advice to teenagers and educateyouths on the risks of engaging in premarital sex. Also it teachesthe teens on the safe behavior and behavior and company to watch outfor, such as drug abuse, being in unsafe environment like in a partywith alcohol and drugs among other things.
Roleof Policy in Preventing Teen Pregnancy
Policyis one of the major strategies that can be applied to prevent teenpregnancy. Policies addressing specific areas depending on thesituation or the vulnerability of teens to pregnancy are put inplace. Policies ensuring availability of contraception like EmergencyHormonal Contraception (EHC) and the way teenagers can access to suchservices. This policy can be tailor made for specific group ofpeople.
Teenpregnancy is a major social concern in most societies. The UnitedStates has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy that costs thegovernment billions of dollars each year. has seriousimplications on the individual including negative health outcome,dropping out of school, lack of employment, and generally living indeplorable conditions. In addition, it affects the larger society asthe effects spill over. Various factors increase risk of teenpregnancy including poor social economic background, dropping out ofschool, single parenthood among others. To address the issue, variousprograms have been introduced by state and non-governmentalorganizations. Among such initiatives involve encouraging the youthinto theatre, sports as well as sex education in schools. Althoughthe issue of teen pregnancy is a complex one, collaboration amongdifferent stakeholders can help deal with it.
BestStart. (N.D). Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Exploring Out of SchoolApproaches. Retrievedhttp://www.beststart.org/resources/rep_health/pdf/teen_pregnancy_08_5.pdf(Accessed June 1, 2014).
Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention, (2009). “PreventingTeen Pregnancy: An Update in 2009,”Retrieved http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/AdolescentReproHealth/AboutTP.htm.(Accessed June 1, 2014).
Kelly,D. (2007). Young mothers, agency and collective action: Issues andchallenges. Journalof the Association for Research on Mothering, 9,9-19.
Neiterman,E. (2012). Constructing and Deconstructing Teen Pregnancy as a SocialProblem. Qualitative Sociology Review, 8(3), 24-47.
Sarantaki,A. and Koutelekos, I. (No date). Teenage Pregnancy, Health ScienceJournal, 2. Retrievedhttp://www.hsj.gr/volume1/issue2/issue02_rev02.pdf (accessed June 1,2014).