Teenage pregnancy in the United States Essay

United States has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy among developed countries (Singh & Darroch 2000). Teenage pregnancy in the US is five times higher compared with Western Europe and ten times higher compared with Japan (Singh & Darroch 2000). This, despite the fact, that there is an observable decline in the percentage of teenage pregnancy in the US during this period (Sandfort et al. 2008). More than that, teenage pregnancy is a critical economic, public health, and social issue for the US (Venture et al. 2008). From the economic perspective, Hoffman (2006), in a study, estimated that government funds amounting to almost $161 billion have been spent by the government to assist adolescent mother and her child from the period of 1990- 2004. The cost comes in the form of public assistance, healthcare, child welfare, and other expenses (Ventura et al. 2008). The high public cost is incurred despite the fact that there is an observable decrease in the percentage of teenage pregnancy across the country during this period (Sandfort etal 2008; Ventura et al. 2004).

In terms of public health, although there is a general decline in the number of teenage pregnancy, adolescent teenage pregnancy accounts for the highest in age-specific unintended pregnancy (Institute of Medicine, 1995). In addition, age specific-risks for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continue to be highest among adolescents (Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2003). In this regard, it can be inferred that teenage pregnancy is a critical public health issue. On top of everything, is the social disadvantages that teenage mothers experience. This includes unemployment, poverty, discrimination and depression that may continue until adulthood (Anand et al. 2006; Da Costa et al., 2000; Evans and Brown 2003; Molborn and Morningstar 2009; Molnar et al., 2005).

Moreover, children of teenage parents face health risks and low birth weight (Molnar et al., 2005). They become victims of dysfunctional parents who are irresponsible and neglectful parents (Molnar et al., 2005). This situation can result into continuous cycle of pattern of behavior leading to teen pregnancy in the succeeding generation (Vickers 2010). In this sense, it can be inferred that the negative effects of teenage childbearing are not limited only to the mother, but it becomes a vicious cycle pass on the following generation (Molnar et al. 2005). Thus, the negative image and perception attributed to teenage pregnancy and motherhood stems not only from the sexual behavior of the adolescent, but is also anchored on “the threat posed to traditional value structures regarding sexual behavior and family structure, or due to the individuals failing concerned failing to be economically independent” (Kidger, 2005, p. 484).

In contrasts, Smithbattle’s researches (1995;2000) question the legitimacy and validity of the bleak and negative image of adolescent childbearing and motherhood. Employing longitudinal study, she followed teenage mothers for 8 years who perceived their pregnancy and mothering as catalysts for change, a vehicle for transformation, and a means towards maturity. There were three groups among her respondents. On the other end are teenagers who were already disadvantaged in life and they saw in the baby the hope of what is to come, of the future and the possibility of changing the future. In this regard, the pre-pregnancy status of the teenager was a desolate past in which the baby offers the vision of hope. On the other hand, on the other extreme side, were adolescents who were not wanting in resources. In fact, they were above other teenagers and pre-pregnancy plans include education and employment. Pregnancy may have made their plans more complicated, but it strengthened their resolve to build a better future, not only for themselves, but also for the baby. The last group, the middle group in Smithbattle’s respondents, found becoming a mother to be a corrective experience. The pre-pregnancy did not refer to economic standing but to destructive behavior and risky friends. Motherhood gave them the sense of purpose and direction that was lacking from their lives before. In this regard, mothering often “anchors the self, fosters a sense of purpose and meaning, reweaves connections, and provides a new sense of future”(SmithBattle, 2000, p 35).

These similar findings were also observed by Phoenix (1991) of London teenage mothers in the mid-80’s. she found out in her research that both the mother and the child were faring well. Motherhood became the spurring moment that motivated the teenage mothers to go back to school, seek higher education and find employment (Phoenix 1991, p. 250). Another and more recent study by Bell et al (2004) in London’s seaside and rural areas where there is an increased number of teenage pregnancies, they have found out that becoming pregnant provided meaning, purpose, hope, and new direction in the lives of the teenage mothers.

These two views present the opposing positions and views regarding the effect of teenage pregnancy. The polarized stance of scholars manifest that there is no one universal point of view regarding this issue. This opens the need for further clarification regarding the concern pertinent to teenage pregnancy as it continues to be a critical socio-economic and public health issue in the United States. In fact, A new public opinion survey released today by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy provides some important context for the new birth data. Some of the top lines from With One Voice (2010), a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,008 young people (aged 12-19) and 1,000 adults (age 20 and older), are:

Teens (46 ) say parents most influence their decisions about sex. By comparison, only 20 say friends most influence their decisions.

Although 78 of teens say they have all the information they need to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, one-third (34 ) agree “it doesn’t matter whether you use birth control or not, when it is your time to get pregnant, it will happen,” and half (49 ) admit that they know “little or nothing” about condoms and how to use them.

Among those teens who have watched MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, 82 think the show helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood and how to avoid it.

In this regard, the primary goal of this dissertation is to identify the factors that contribute to the continued reality of teenage pregnancies. In lieu with this, the research will also attempt to determine the impact of socio-economic factors to adolescent childbearing. In addition, the research will try to know if there is an increase probability of similar pattern of behavior in the following generation in terms of teen pregnancy. Finally, the dissertation intends to know if there is a correlation between increase pregnancy and increase sexually transmitted infections among adolescents.

Statement of the Problem

The reality of the condition of teenage pregnancy is something that cannot be relegated in the periphery of the society on the premise that vulnerable ‘children with children’ are burdened further by their condition making their situation more complex, risky and difficult (Kidger 2005). Although there is a decreasing trend in teen pregnancy, age-specific, the adolescent group (15-19 years of age) are the highest in age-specific in terms of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (Center for Disease Control, 2010; Institute of Medicine 1995; Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2003). As such, this paper will look into the issue of persistence of teenage pregnancy despite continued effort in addressing the issue.

The main question is why is there still a significant amount of babies born to teenage parents each year? Even with sex education and preventive measures available, the statistics still do not show that this may become a thing of the past. Once the underlying cause to this problem can be determined then maybe a solution to keep this from happening will be put into place.

Other Research Questions that will be Addressed

In order to clarify further the main question of the research, three sub questions will be addressed. These are:

Does social economics play a factor into teen pregnancy?

H1: Social economics play a factor in teenage pregnancy.

H0: Social economics is not a factor in teenage pregnancy.

Do teenagers of teen parents themselves are more prone to repeat the cycle?

H1: Teenagers of teen parents are more prone to repeat the cycle.

H0: Teenagers of teen parents are not more prone to repeat the cycle.

Has there been an increase the STD rate among teenagers since there has been a pregnancy increase?

H1: There is correlation between increased STD and increased pregnancy among teenagers.

H0: There is no correlation between increased STD and increased pregnancy among teenagers.

Limitations of Study

Considering the wide range of possible topics that fall within the discourse of teenage pregnancy, the following limitations are observed in this study to make the entire research not only feasible but also manageable. The following limitations are

Considering the global concern regarding adolescent childbearing, this research will focus only in the United States. The reason behind choosing the United States is the fact that among developed countries, the US has the highest rate of teen pregnancy (Singh and Darroch 2000). As such, looking into the US context of teenage pregnancy will provide a solid frame wherein to understand the issue of teen pregnancy in developed countries.

The study will delve on socio-economic factors that contribute to the persistence of teenage pregnancy. If other factors are touched or mentioned, it will be done for clarification purposes only.

The research will focus on the following generational effect of teenage pregnancy. It will not deal with teen father and teen mother relationship or parent teen relationship. The focus is significant, as it will help in understanding whether there is a correlation between teen parents and their children’s tendency of becoming teen parents as well.

Finally, the correlation between increased STD and increased pregnancy among adolescents will also be discussed. This is essential as teen pregnancy is associated with other diseases such as depression, thyroid disease, and increased risk in pregnancy.

Theoretical Framework

I am still working on the theoretical framework.


The following terms will be understood and used after these definitions.

Teen Pregnancy – are young women who have babies between the age of 15 – 19 (www.cdc.gov/aboutteenpreg.htm#a).This is synonymous with adolescent childbearing.

Social Disadvantage – refers to a range of social and economic difficulties an individual can face —such as unemployment, poverty, and discrimination —and is distributed unequally on the basis of sociodemographic characteristics such as ethnicity, socioeconomic position, educational level, and place of residence (Harden et al, 2009, p. 1)

Sexually Transmitted Disease

Significance of the Study

Despite a one-third decline since the early 1990s, the United States still has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and birth among comparable countries (Singh & Darroch 2000). In fact, 3 in 10 girls in this country become pregnant by age 20—over 750,000 teen pregnancies annually (Kosh, Henshaw, & Carlin 2010). Preventing teen pregnancy includes such problems as the availability of birth control, sexual education among children and adolescents, and a greater sense of support for pregnant teens. However, before society can begin to successfully prevent pregnancies among teenage girls, the underlying causes and facts about the dilemma must first be exposed.

While eighty-five percent of the teenage girls who become pregnant every year do not plan their pregnancies, an alarming fifteen percent of these pregnancies are in fact intentional (Bell 107). Some girls are under the false pretenses that having a baby will provide them with a certain amount of love that is currently missing in their lives. Many also believe that with this new life they have helped create will be a renewed sense of hope (Bell 107). These incentives reflect emotional problems that will not be solved by becoming pregnant, but will only get worse.

In addition, a considerable amount of girls become pregnant as a secret plan to hold on to their boyfriends (Guernsey 37). They assume that by giving birth to their boyfriend’s baby, he will stick around longer and the relationship will improve as a result. However, the reality is that if a relationship is not strong enough to survive on its own, the presence of a baby will simply make it much more difficult.

There are several myths surrounding teen and adolescent pregnancy. Some of these myths are misunderstandings that many teenagers have, regarding sexual activity and pregnancy. A common deception among teens is that it is impossible to impregnate someone, or become pregnant the first time they have sex. Not only is this extremely false, it just so happens that approximately one out of twenty girls becomes pregnant the first time she has sex, and as many as ninety percent of all pregnancies occur within the first year of sexual activity (Guernsey 19-20).

A large number of teenage girls are faced with the stresses of everyday life, including school, life at home, and with friends. The added stress and complications of pregnancy can make a young girls life a living nightmare. Caring for a small child at such a young age is a responsibility a teenager should not have to experience.

Hi! I will send the second part of the draft on Saturday. I just want to ask, are we going to conduct an interview. I have asked 4 teenage moms if its ok to interview them and they are ok with it. But, I read in the drp booklet that you gave we are just limited to secondary sources. Please inform if I will push through with the interview.

Also, I am still working on the framework. I’ll try to give it to you on Saturday.Thank you. Regards. Writer