The problem of teenage pregnancy today is quite disturbing as many young couples who are still in their peak of growth engage in premarital sex and accidentally have a child. Many reports shown on newspapers and programs today discuss couples who abandon their child after giving birth, abort the premature fetus to save hospital money and couples who mistreat their child as he grows up. Officials and pro-family activists are starting to get concerned over the continuously growing numbers of teenage families and the other cases which are not reported. There are many reasons why they do not report it but it is nevertheless a cause for concern. But the big question is why teenage pregnancy is a common trend with teenagers today? What are the factors that contribute to this problem and can it be prevented? This paper will discuss the trends on why teenage pregnancy happens and how can it be prevented.
Keywords: teenage pregnancy, trends in teenage pregnancy, prevention of teenage pregnancy, teenage pregnancy prevention, teenage pregnancy trends
Teenage Pregnancy: Trends and Prevention
According to the recent study done by Ventura and Hamilton (2011) for the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of teenage pregnancies have declined from 2007 to 2009 with an average of 39.1 births per 1,000 US teenage families aged 15 to 19 . Despite this decline, the problem of teenage pregnancy is a long-standing concern because of the risks that teenagers and their children would have to experience while waiting for the child to be born and living after the birth of the child. Adults are also concerned with the growing rate of reports of unwanted children being aborted, abused and killed on purpose because the young parents do not want to handle such responsibility. This decrease only covers the US position in the growing problem and there are still teenage parents who do not report their case to the authorities. Many factors may have influenced the young generation today when it comes to how they look at their sexual life and eventually lead to teenagers pregnant by accident. This paper will discuss the trends on why teenage pregnancy is still a cause for concern for millions of parents around the globe and the efforts done by the government to prevent the spread of teenage pregnancy.
One reason on why teenage pregnancy exists is because information is not properly introduced to the younger generation with regards to its risks and measures of preventing it on happening. Boonstra (2000) cites that each country has a different outlook on how to view a teenager’s sex life and how they could be educated of the possible risks and procedures to prevent such accidents that can happen. In some regions such as in Europe, they are very acceptable with the concept that teenagers with active sex life is normal and teach various ways such as contraception in preventing such incidents of accidental pregnancy to happen. They still value the importance of abstaining from any form of sexual activity until after marriage but anything else is accepted if all the risks are understood by both parties. In most of the European countries, a teenager’s sexual life is how they express their opinions and their way in expressing that they can be very responsible with their own actions. Like in Asia, Europeans believe that teenagers are responsible enough and are taking actions in protecting themselves from sexually-transmitted diseases and from a possible chance of getting their partners pregnant as they have been educated properly. Schools offer special courses to students in teaching them the do’s and don’ts in having a sexual life at an early age. They also explain various forms of preventing pregnancy aside from discussing the normal method, abstinence. Should anything happen to these teens, the adults would immediately know that these teens have understood the risks and changes that would happen to them now that they got their partner pregnant as all the information has been given to them and each plausible step is introduced in preventing it .
But Boonstra (2002) also cites that in some countries such as in the United States, information about safe sex and relationship is broadcasted in a weaker light especially in shows where teens are seen to be incapable of protecting themselves using contraception. The US campaign and policies are directed in promoting abstinence alone as the possible option in preventing pregnancy. The US government believes that any other form of possible safety from teenage pregnancy would not work especially on their campaign against contraception . Collins, Alagiri and Summers (2002) notes that if governments would only push for only one birth-control method when it comes to sex education and information dissemination, the risks of teenage pregnancy may not be prevented at all. They argue that having a comprehensive sex education system in schools would enable the younger generation the information needed not only to understand the importance of abstinence before settling in a relationship with someone but also to understand the importance of contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. If the government would only push for an abstinence-only program, this may not produce solid results and would only contradict the legal studies proving that other methods such as contraception would be able to protect teens from pregnancy. The results are also not that prominent no matter how much money is allotted to the program. Governments must be open to all forms of protection and educate the children to protect themselves through these possible alternatives. .These varying positions on how to promote safe sex for teenagers have produced various results as teens may not be able to discern which information is credible and which preventive measure they can use.
Another reason teenage pregnancy exists is also probably because of the teenager’s social and family background. Klein (2005) notes that there are teenagers that become sexually active because it may be the result of the teenager’s upbringing and from the environment he grew up in. Considering the decrease in American teenagers who engage in sexual intercourse, the rate and the average age of teenagers doing the act is still quite high. He cites that younger teenagers are more prone in engaging in coercive and nonconsensual sex because they are still incapable of fighting back. The teenager may also have seen sexual abuse at their home and may have already become a victim to this type of abuse and got addicted to it. Poverty and the absence of parents in the life of the child may also be a cause of this sexual activity because they are not properly guided by the parents in understanding the risks of teenage pregnancy and they are not provided with quality information from the schools they are enrolled in. The child’s environment may depict a very vocal support for pre-marital sex thus the want to be part of it. Each of these factors, according to Klein, is cited as the influential factors on why teenagers become sexually active .
Although many may speculate the credibility of teenagers who get pregnant with this reason, there is no denying that there is a possibility that the teenager may have been forced to have a sexual intercourse without his or her consent. According to Kabir (1989), she states that young women get pregnant because they may be victims of rape or incest either by a member of the family or by accident. If these women are asked on why they become pregnant, they may say that they wished to abstain until they get married but due to pressure and sometimes, being pushed by force in engaging into sex; they just cannot escape the risk of being pregnant. It is understandable that in the case of rape victims and incest, especially for those who are still young enough to fight for themselves, the teen may not be able to prevent it. But for those who have succumbed to pressure despite his or her insecurities of doing so, it may seem plausible that they would really become pregnant even if they did not wish for it. Most unwanted pregnancies often result into abortion of the child and this is quite a prominent reason for high mortality rates in third-world countries .
Given all these noted influential factors that contributes in the increasing trend of teenage pregnancy, many preventive strategies have been created around the globe in reducing the numbers of teenagers engaging in premarital sex and teenage pregnancy entirely. Fielding and Williams (1991) states that there is a need to introduce a variety of programs and lessons to the younger generation and introduce to them the importance of having a responsible and safe sex as this would help them in a long run. Governments must be able to redirect their campaign into a more optimistic and realistic approach rather than badmouthing a credible method in having safe sex . Singson (2008) states that the most effective means in preventing teenage pregnancy is by having parents and love-ones in showering the teenager with the needed attention, love and guidance they would need to understand the risks they may partake in if they would engage into pre-marital sex and eventually teenage pregnancy if it happens. If parents closely monitor, understand and guide their children, there would be fewer chances for the teenager to undertake into this very risky business of early sexual activity and it would also hone them properly in terms of their behavior, performance and perspective in life. It is not just the parents who would need to help in guiding the child; schools and government officials must be able to create new strategies in exploring the possibilities of introducing safe sex, relationship and protection that would guide the younger generation. Without one of these important groups, the preventive strategies being imposed to combat teenage pregnancy may not dig its roots deeper in the minds of teenagers everywhere.
No matter what caused the influx of teenagers becoming pregnant in an early age, it is still a cause of concern even if it has already declined. It is important that each actor in the community contribute its own portion of the prevention to allow it to work. Abstinence may be a good way in preventing it but if it cannot be properly done without the information needed on how effective this method would be. Teenagers must be able to understand the risks, responsibilities and consequences of their actions for them to realize that parent, teachers, government officials and other adults around them are trying to protect them from these risks that they are not ready for. A creation of a systematic and interesting program to entice teenagers to learn about the consequences and risks of teenage pregnancies may open their eyes and help them abstain from sexual activity until they are ready.
Boonstra, H. (2000). Promoting Contraceptive Use and Choice: France's Approach to Teen Pregnancy and Abortion. The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 3(3), 1-4.
Boonstra, H. (2002). Teen Pregnancy: Trends and Lessons Learned. The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy, 5(1), 7-10.
Collins, C., Alagiri, P., & Summers, T. (2002). Abstinence Only vs. Comprehensive Sex Education: What are the arguments? What is the evidence? San Francisco: AIDS Research Institute University of California.
Fielding, J., & Williams, C. (1991). Adolescent pregnancy in the United States: a review and recommendation for clinicians and research needs. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 7(1), 47-52.
Kabir, S. (1989). Causes and Consequences of Unwanted Pregnancy from Asian Women's Perspectives. International Journal of Obstetrics, 9-14.
Klein, J. (2005). Adolescent Pregnancy: Current Trends and Issues. Pediatrics, 116(1), 281-286.
Singson, R. (2008, June 14). Teen Pregnancies in the Philippines. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/lifestyle/lifestyle/view/20080614-142572/Teen-pregnancies-in-the-Philippines#_
Ventura, S., & Hamilton, B. (2011). US Teenage Birth Rate Resumes Decline. Hyattsville: U.S Department of Health and Human Services.