Causes of Teen Pregnancy

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By Jeanette Ponder

Teen pregnancy is a cause for concern among American families. Almost a million girls become pregnant as a teenager every year in this country. Approximately 80 percent of those pregnancies are accidental. The politics of sexual education and contraception make this a hot-button issue, but statistics tend to reveal a need for comprehensive sexual education. Teenage pregnancy is a serious issue that has long-term ramifications in a young person’s life.

Significance

Teen pregnancy is a life-changing occurrence. Body changes that are difficult for a pregnant adult woman are doubly tough for a teenager. Young girls are often not mature enough to deal with the possible social ramifications of teenage motherhood. Schooling and career goals can become derailed. Family structures can suffer if the mother must depend on others to assist in raising the infant. Normal pastimes like going to the mall, dating and sports can also be affected due to physical limitations before the baby is born. Time constraints will likely prevent these post-birth.

Parenting is a huge responsibility that changes a person’s life. The self-centered world of a teenager is turned upside down. Dealing with this takes a great deal of maturity, responsibility and humility.

Features

There are many things that lead to teen pregnancy, turning it into a highly polarized and politicized topic. One cited explanation is the advent of abstinence-only sex education in public schools. Since these programs don’t teach teens about the proper use of contraceptives and safer sex behaviors, they may become sexual active without knowing how to protect themselves from pregnancy. Several states have opted out of the programs, citing inconclusive results and ineffectiveness over time.

Teens are also restricted from acquiring condoms and birth control without parental consent in some states. Planned Parenthood and other public health clinics do offer free or low-cost contraceptives, but teens are often afraid that they’ll be exposed. Programs to offer free condoms in schools are highly contested, and these programs often lead to long legal battles.

Types

Teen pregnancies occur for several different reasons in addition to the political ones cited above. In addition, many teens become pregnant due to rape or sexual assault. Often, young sexual assault victims stay silent to avoid social stigma and shame. This keeps the young women from getting access to legal help and rape kits that include a dose of highly concentrated contraceptives. Another reason is pressure to become sexual before one is comfortable. Others are pressured into advanced sexual situations by a significantly older partner.

There is also increased amounts of teenage mothers that live in poverty. Poor girls in the United States are statistically more like to become teenage moms than their wealthier counterparts.

Geography

Teen pregnancy occurs more often in impoverished cities and towns. In the United States, teen mothers are concentrated in inner city and rural areas. Most births to teenage mothers occur in the Southern and Western states. According to the Sierra Club, the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any industrialized nation. We have twice the amount of young births as Great Britain.

In poorer countries, girls may be wed at a young age. These girls often begin having children right away. Without the same access to medical care and education that richer communities and other countries enjoy, there’s a much higher chance of pregnancy. However, these cultures are more accepting of teen mothers. There’s less social stigma surrounding teen births.

Prevention/Solution

The best prevention for teen pregnancy is education, medical care and access to contraception. To quote the Sierra Club, “there is considerable evidence that comprehensive sexual education programs delay sexual activity and increase the likelihood of using contraceptives when individuals become sexually active.” By putting knowledge in their hands, teen girls will become more confident and able to make healthy choices about their developing sexuality.The correct use of contraceptives is vital to preventing teen pregnancy. Teens that are properly educated about the proper use of birth control are much more likely to use it during sexual activity. Although birth control isn’t foolproof, it greatly lessens the chance of accidental pregnancy.An environment of honesty and nonjudgmental communication is important to establish between parents and teenagers. Teens who can be forthright about sexual questions and situations often wait to begin sexual activity.
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