Since 2010, teen pregnancy has increased by 42.5 percent in the United States, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The relapse of this issue has sparked great concern among policymakers and is receiving wide attention because it is no longer confined within inner-city communities; rather, it now affects regions across all states.
Teen pregnancy does not just affect young people themselves, but also their communities and society as a whole. In turn, these issues have led to various social scandals that cost thousands of dollars for taxpayers each year.
Components of teen pregnancy
Many factors contribute to teen pregnancy, with the leading contributing factor being family dynamics. For example, an article published by the journal “Families” examined 709 families that consisted of at least one teen girl found that when there is a lack of communication in the family or when parents and children do not express their emotions towards each other, it has a negative effect on teenage girls, limiting the awareness about their sexual health and activities that could save them from unexpected teen pregnancy.
Another factor that triggers teenage pregnancy is a sense of low self-esteem among girls (and boys). According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, “[c]ompared with peers who did not have intercourse, teens whose self-esteem was lower were more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.” This means that when people have little regard for themselves or their lives, they are less likely to worry about unexpected outcomes such as pregnancy.
Additionally, there has been a significant rise in young girls who report feeling depressed and suicidal. In 2009 alone, 823 reported cases of suicide were related to pregnancy. This statistic is alarming because it shows that girls are killing themselves at an age when they should be happy and carefree. It also tells us that more effort must be put into helping these young people feel good about themselves instead of ignoring their cries for help or telling them, “just don’t do it.”
The media has also been identified as a factor in teen pregnancy. For example, according to the article published by the American Psychological Association, teenage girls who watch television a lot or have access to a computer are at higher risk of sexual intercourse than those who had limited exposure. This means that teenagers may turn to unhealthy outlets such as pornography and objectified images of women on television for education about sexuality rather than opening the lines of communication with their families.
Another contributing factor for teen pregnancy is the influence of peers on teenagers. This peer influence can come in various ways, such as through social media or the idea that teenage boys feel pressured to have sex with a girl because all their friends do it. Dr. Chaundra McCray-Perez states, “It’s not just that they’re getting pregnant, it’s that they’re making poor decisions about who they engage in sexual activity with.” These pressures lead more teens to engage in risky sexual behavior, putting them at risk of contracting STDs or getting pregnant without thinking about the consequences.
Lack of access to sexual health and education resources is also a major leading cause of teen pregnancy. With a significant amount of teen pregnancies being accidental, it is clear that teens need to be educated on how to protect themselves. According to the Center for Disease Control, several resources are available, including contraceptives and emergency contraception (EC); however, only 28% of the females aged 15-19 have ever used EC. By educating teenagers about sexual health and giving them access to these resources, they will be more equipped to know how to engage in sexual activity without running the risk of getting pregnant.
Effects Teen Pregnancy
Teen pregnancy affects young people in many ways, including but not limited to:
- Emotional and physical effects on the mother and child.
- Social impact on the mother, father, caregiver, family members, friends, and others.
- The undue financial strain on both parties.
According to the Mayo Clinic, teen mothers are more likely to experience anemia, iron deficiency, and low bone density in their children. In addition, teen pregnancy can also carry risks for both mother and child, including premature birth, low birth weight, and death.
The detrimental effects of teen pregnancy do not stop at the birthing process. According to research done by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, after becoming a mother, teens have a high chance of being poor or on public assistance for an extended period due to lack of access to education and other financial problems that occur with having a new baby. Sadly, there is also a high risk of losing custody of their child if they are unable to provide care for their child’s needs.
Teen pregnancy also affects other family members, such as parents and siblings. Raising a child is no small task, and teen parents are often unequipped mentally and physically to take up the responsibility on their own. For this reason, family members often become burdened with the responsibility of helping the teen parent by providing childcare, financial support, and other types of assistance.
The social effects associated with teen pregnancy are also detrimental to a young person’s life. Teens who become pregnant experience problems in their peer relationships and often find that they can no longer relate to the everyday experiences of their peers because they are taking care of a baby.
Teen mothers may also have difficulties finding employment due to employers’ perception of them as “unreliable” or “immature.” Economically speaking, teen parents are shown to earn significantly less over their lifetimes than parents who had children later in life due to lost educational opportunities due to having a child in their teens.
Solutions To Teen Pregnancy
Education and information are the best ways to combat teen pregnancy. Teens need to be informed of the consequences that can arise from having sex, and they should have access to healthy and safe methods of sexual activity such as condoms and birth control.
A study done by Guttmacher Institute found that providing comprehensive sexual health education in schools can:
- help delay sexual initiation
- reduce risky behaviors once a teen is sexually active
- increase the use of contraception if teens become sexually active
- lower rates of unplanned pregnancies for teens who do become pregnant
Furthermore, studies have found that teenagers will be better equipped to avoid the risk of an unwanted pregnancy by increasing awareness about basic reproductive health, promoting the benefits of waiting to become sexually active, and providing information about contraceptive use.
The rate of teen pregnancy can also be reduced through community involvement, such as creating social programs that promote positive youth development for teens who are at risk of becoming pregnant. Some examples include: investing in local parks & recreation resources such as afterschool programs; giving teens an outlet for constructive activities like tutoring programs, sports teams, club participation, etc.; setting up a safe place where teens can go where they can feel comfortable being themselves without concern about judgment or harsh criticism.
Parents also play a crucial role in reducing teen pregnancy rates. By instilling sex-positive values and maintaining an open channel of communication, teens can feel like they have an environment that is safe to express themselves and their thoughts about sex.
Teen pregnancy doesn’t have to be the end of the world. But, by educating teens now, we can set the stage for a generation of adults who will be able to live their lives without worrying about the consequences that can arise when making uneducated choices about their sexual health or activities.
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