Teenage pregnancy refers to female adolescents becoming pregnant between the ages of 13-19. These young females have not yet reached adulthood and the causes of teenage pregnancy vary greatly.
Teenage pregnancy may be linked to things such as lack of education and information about reproduction, peer pressure and early engagement of sexual activity . Although some teenage pregnancies are intentional, the majority of them are unintentional and lead to many negative outcomes for the teenage mother, the child as well as other family and peers . Teenage mothers generally do not have the resources to care for a child and often they are not able to sustain healthy habits throughout pregnancy to ensure they produce a healthy baby. These young females often do not complete their education and they begin a perpetual cycle in which their child may further go on to become a teenage parent as well.
Adolescent pregnancy is defined as females between the ages of 13-15 who engage in sexual activity and become pregnant either intentionally or unintentionally . Many times, these teens are regarded as selfish, apathetic and immoral by the general population regardless of the teens intention of getting pregnant.
In some cultures, customs and traditions lead to early marriage which would therefore lead to early pregnancy. In these cases, pregnancy is acceptable and is most often intentional, however they are occurring in developing countries such as India and Sub-Saharan Africa. In developed countries however, teenage pregnancy is most often unintentional and due to a variety of different reasons.
Drugs and Alcohol
During adolescence, teenagers may drink and experiment with drugs frequently with their friends at social gatherings and parties. Teens, however, do not realize the impacts alcohol and drugs have on the functioning of their brain, especially the effects of binge drinking which is consuming large amounts of alcohol during one sitting. Drinking excessively as well as experimenting drugs may lead to unwanted and unintentional pregnancy. These substances greatly affect a teens ability to logically think and carry out general thinking processes, thus increases the chances they will engage in unprotected and unsafe sexual activity .
Low Socio-economic Status
Teens who become pregnant often come from families of low socio-economic status. Growing up, these children often come from families who are suffering from poverty and do not have all the necessary resources to raise their child. These children grow up to have low educational goals and successes because of the lack of involvement from their own parents. These young kids then predisposed to a negative environment end up with less ambition to succeed in school and begin making friendships with other teens who are going through similar situations as them. It is these groups of teens who begin to experiment with drugs and alcohol and do not do very well in school.
Low socio-economic status is further linked to low levels of family connectedness. This means that children/youth growing up in these homes do not have strong role models or individuals to look up to or learn from. Within these low socio-economic status families, abuse is often prevalent and predisposes youth to unsafe and troubling conditions. Whether the child is being abused or witnessing domestic abuse, adolescents are being separated and disconnected from their families which might lead to poor decision making. This lack of family connectedness pushes youth away from confiding in the adults within their homes but towards other troubled youth suffering in the same ways .
With their lack of education and knowledge about reproduction, these teens engage in unprotected and unsafe sexual activity. These teens do not know about the available contraceptives nor do they explore their options. Even if the adolescents have some form of contraception they are using them incorrectly which makes them useless during sexual activity. These teens simply engage in intercourse at very young ages, and may have multiple partners which further leads to increased chances of pregnancy .
Peer Pressure and Sexual Abuse
Peer pressure is another major cause of sexual abuse, often females may be pressured or forced by an older male partner to engage in sexual activity. These young females out of fear may feel forced to engage in unprotected sex without a choice.
Peer pressure may also be prevalent in a different form while in relationships adolescents may be pressured by their partner to have unsafe and unprotected sex in order to express their “love” and “true feelings” for their partner. The partner may manipulate the other to have unprotected sex which leads to unintended pregnancy .
Sexual abuse is also another reason why teens may become pregnant. Early sexual abuse has been linked to later teen pregnancies. Some children have unfortunately been sexually abused my predators or even family even prior to entering puberty. These young kids often are unable to inform a trusted adult about the situation due to fear of being harmed by their predator. These situations, further effect the child as they enter adolescence and increases chances of teen pregnancy.
The media has a large effect on teen pregnancy, especially shows such as “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant”. These shows often glamorize pregnancy and hide the true hardships associated with pregnancy which encourages these teens to become pregnant. Some teenage females become pregnant just so they are able to drop out of high school or to force their partners into a deeper commitment. Rebellion is also another reason why some teens will become pregnant. In order to show their independence and deem themselves as having more control over their lives, a teen may decide to have a child. These television glorify the idea of having a child through the promotion of these teenagers having a more adult lifestyle, with more responsibility and decision-making power .
Effects of Teenage Pregnancy
Due to becoming pregnant during adolescence, teen mothers are very likely to drop out of school because of their low ambitions and dedication to getting an education. About 38% of female teens who have a child before the age of 18 complete their highschool education by the age of 22. This means that a very high percentage of teen mothers will not even go on to graduate from high school let alone pursue post-secondary education . In light of this, these young girls do not have full qualifications for proper jobs in the future, which leads to having a job with very low wages or even worse, unemployment. Further, this leads to poor living conditions and the inability to maintain a safe and clean environment for their newborn child. These young women often end up living on welfare and do not have adequate resources for their child . Overall, these young girls are forced to delay and postpone any plans for their future in order to raise their child .
Another issue associated with teen pregnancy is the young mother is often forced to essentially give up her identity for a new one while switching into a maternal role. These young mothers go through many physical changes: from adolescent physical adjustment to having to adapt to the ever changing shape of her body through the pregnancy and her postpartum figure.
Teens are often forced to become reliant on their family for financial resources as well as support to help get her through raising a child. In some cases, teens are shunned by their parents and do not even receive any support from their parents who are not accepting of the pregnancy. These young girls are often forced to lose contact with friends and others in their social groups in order to focus on their pregnancy .
Pregnant teens often do not have the proper healthy habits in order to go through a successful child rearing process. These mothers thus have heightened health risks, which inhibits healthy child development. Young women can suffer from things such as anaemia as well as blood pressure which is only possible during pregnancy . These mothers often smoke and drink because they are not properly educated on the child rearing process.
Having a child during these essential years truly clashes with the developmental tasks that should be occurring during adolescents. These young mothers are unable to fully develop a sense of self-identity because of their new role as an expecting mother. Further, peer and social relationships are strained or even terminated and teen years are essentially for developing relationships with others and discovering oneself . Due to all of these factors, teen mothers may end up developing depression after essentially being alienated from their family and friends. These symptoms of depression increase the chances of the teen mother committing suicide .
Pursuing this further, teen mothers are often strained for resources and social support from the father of the child. In some cases, the teen father will remain present throughout the process and in others the father will not. If the father remains present there is often high relationships tension and dissatisfaction because of the lack of financial resources, support and child care which will be needed. There is an increase in conflict which may lead to breakups, leaving the mother to be a single parent or even violence within the relationship. Due to the lack of financial resources, these young women often do not get prenatal checkups or regular checkups for their developing child and thus they are unaware of any health concerns for their child.
Many of these teen mothers are not healthy enough, thus they have a higher risk for obstructed labour and also these young women often undergo unsafe abortions which lead to the death of many young females and their unborn child.
The child of a teen mother is very likely to live in poverty because of its mothers lack of financial resources. Essentially, the birth of this child becomes the beginning of a perpetual cycle in many cases. The child is likely to endure many of the same issues its mother did in her childhood. For instance, the child is likely to grow up in poverty and in very poor conditions. They are likely to be missing a father figure, leaving them with fewer role models and increased chances of confiding in other children in the same situation. The children’s academic success is also further compromised and these children do not strive to achieve much academically . Furthermore, these kids have social problems and are unable to make friends very easily which leads to poor relationship development which is a crucial stage in adolescence. Poor relationship development can be linked to the child being deprived economically as well as educationally. The children are likely to drop out of high school and also succumb to the use of drugs and alcohol due to lack of parental involvement and monitoring. The cycle is very likely to repeat itself over and over.
The children are often also likely to suffer health risks in comparison to those born to adults. They are likely to be cognitively impaired and also susceptible to behavioural issues. The children are likely to be born underweight and prematurely, which is detrimental to their health and may even result in infant mortality.
Assisting Adolescent Parents and Prevention
There are many negative factors associated with teens who become pregnant, however there are some factors that increase the likelihood of making these teens more suitable for parenthood.
Family and Peer Support
Teen mothers can increase their resilience through having the support of their parents as well as maintaining social relations with their peers. Having those connections throughout your pregnancy and after as well as having all of that support greatly influences the mothers attitude and adaptation to her new role in life. Furthermore, another protective factor which increases teen mother resiliency is if the mother goes on to graduate from high school rather than dropping out. The overall most important factor is the teen mother having the support of her own mother. The mother of the teen can be extremely helpful in terms of emotional support for her daughter as well as financial aid and helping her daughter with child rearing responsibilities of the newborn.
From a young age, it is important that young children and adolescents have a reliable and trustworthy adult to confide in. Having an approachable and knowledgeable role model or adult in your life will greatly decrease the chances of teen pregnancy. Parents often neglect explaining the anatomy of the body to their children, however providing this information and educating children during their youth is an extremely important protective factor against teen pregnancy .
Children need to grow up having a positive self-image as well as a healthy environment to grow up in. Children need unconditional love and support from their parents as it is critical in ensuring the child makes better choices about their future sexual activity. Having love from one’s parents ensures that these adolescents are not left feeling unwanted from parents who are very passive and uninvolved .
Open communication and time spent with children is a protective factor against teen pregnancy also. Children and teens should be able to approach their parents and ask for their time whenever in need. Developing a strong relationship between child and parent is critical. These children are more likely to use birth control or other contraceptives and make better decisions in regards to sexual behaviours .