THIS IS MY BLOG FOR FEBRUARY WEEK 4
A pregnancy is considered to be an adolescent pregnancy if the girl is 19 years old or younger and today, 820,000 teen pregnancies occur each year (The National Campaign). The problem of teenage pregnancy truly emerged in the 1960’s when teenage sexual activity increased and the rates of teenage pregnancies and births began presenting a problem to individuals, families, and our nation. Our nation’s statistics are particularly high, being eight times larger than Japan, four times larger than France and Germany, and twice as large as Britain (Stewart). While the teen pregnancy rates have been dropping over the last years this is still a prominent problem that gives way to social and economical problems both familial and national.
The United States has always had the largest number of teenage pregnancies, reaching an all time high in 1991 (Stewart). Now we are experiencing all time lows with a 44 percent drop in teen births from 1991 through 2010. As of 2010 there are 34.3 births per 1000 women each year, reaching an all time low since 1946 (Castillo). Many different doctors and specialists credit this to less sexual activity, more use of contraception and birth control, and more knowledge of the risks sex brings (Sanghavi).
Teenage pregnancies have the ability to completely change the lives of the individuals involved in the pregnancy along with their families, generally for the worse. That’s not to say that the life they are bringing into the world is a bad thing, but the situations that the children of teen mothers are born into are, more often than not, less than desirable. The daughters of teen mothers are 22% more likely to become pregnant and the sons of teen moms are 13% more likely to end up in prison (Teen Pregnancy Statistics). In addition to the bleaker possible future of a teen mom’s children, family life and the lives of the girl that ends up pregnant can be drastically changed at the sight of a positive pregnancy test. Having a child at such a young age often derails the mother’s education plans and only 1.5% of teen mom’s have earned their college degree by age 30 (Teen Pregnancy Statistics). Even worse, only 50 percent of teen mom’s graduate high school. In today’s world, adequately providing for yourself and your children is made duly difficult with the lack of a college degree, and is even worse without a high school diploma(Teen Pregnancy Statistics). 80 percent of unmarried teen moms end up on welfare and 50 percent of unmarried teen moms end up on welfare in the first year(Teen Pregnancy Statistics). This can be tracked to the lack of education and employment.
Not only does teen pregnancy have negative repercussions on the family but it also comes back to affect the government, taxpayers, and society in general. The United States government pays 10.9 billion dollars annually towards the expenses caused by teenage pregnancies (Teen Pregnancy Statistics). One expense is the thousands of families on welfare due to the unexpected mouths to feed, cloth and take care of and parents with no jobs or qualifications to care for them (The National Campaign). Another is the billions of dollars spent on public health care for those who cannot afford insurance from a private insurance company (Teen Sexuality). This is once again linked back to the lack of education and unemployment so often found among teenage parents. And even when the parents are trying desperately to make enough money and have honest jobs, their lack of education may lead to the problem of still not making enough to pay all of the bills. The end result is the millions of taxpayers compensating their money for the wellbeing of teenage parents and their children.
Taxpayers and citizens may find themselves frustrated with the situation of teen pregnancy today however, so are the pregnant teens. Not only do many teens not want to get pregnant in the first place, 80 percent of teen pregnancies are unintended, a surprising amount of teenagers have opinions against sexual activity (Sanghavi) . 82 percent of teens feel that teens shouldn’t be sexually active and 73 percent believe that being a virgin shouldn’t be embarrassing (Freeze Frame 2012). Almost 50% of high schoolers haven’t had sex and moreover 67 percent of those who have wish they would have waited (Stewart).
Because of the negative repercussions that teenage pregnancy brings to teens, their families, the US government, and essentially all of America, the government and other programs have been fighting to drop the numbers in the statistics of adolescent pregnancy. Less teen pregnancies means more people completing their education and being able to live without welfare and less taxes being used on the families of teens who made irresponsible decisions in their adolescent years.
So far, the solution has been more evidence based education to more teenagers, and so far this has seen incredible improvement. As stated above, the teen pregnancy rates are the lowest they have ever been since 1946. One thing that we do need to take into consideration when stating that the rates are the same as in 1946 is the fact that in the forties young marriages and pregnancies were a common thing with less complications than today and these pregnancies were largely to married women. These weren’t babies born out of wedlock into family situations that can negatively affect their futures. So in a more realistic sense, teen pregnancy rates have improved from when the problem truly arose in the sixties, and are exponentially better than the 90’s, when the United State’s rates were in their worst conditions that have been seen as of yet (The National Campaign).
There are two widely used and accepted methods of education that are used in the hopes of lowering teen pregnancy rates. One is teaching abstinence and the other is sex education.
In an abstinence program teens are taught to wait until marriage or later in life, after schooling and when they are responsible and have a responsible partner, to have sex. This way, if the girl becomes pregnant the parents will have a better chance at being emotionally and financially ready to care for their child.Abstinence is truly the only way to protect oneself 100% against getting pregnant, getting another person pregnant, or contracting an STI or STD.
However, many argue against this method of teaching due to the fact that, as proved by so many teen pregnancy statistics over the years, an abundance of teens don’t wait for sex. Many do wait, but many are eager for the experience or to be able to say they have “done it, are coerced into it, or don’t have enough patience to wait. If these teens have only received education heeding them to wait for sex, then when they engage in sexual intercourse they won’t have the proper education on using contraceptives leaving them much more susceptible to becoming pregnant at such an early age (Teenage Pregnancy Prevention).
This recurring problem brings about the alternative education method, which is more focused on sex education and the variety of ways to keep from having an unwanted pregnancy that can put you into difficult situations. Sex education informs students on how to use contraceptives such as birth control and condoms and the risks of contracting STIs. These classes also teach about the risk of HIV and AIDS (Stewart). With the evidence of how these things can really throw a wrench in your life may persuade some to choose abstinence but, for the ones who choose not to wait, they will then have the proper knowledge on how to protect themselves from pregnancy, infections, and diseases. However, the protection that comes with contraception can never be as solid of protection as abstinence, and this is enforced on teens as well.
Because of the higher level of sex education being provided to young teens these days, more teens are practicing safe sex or abstinence. Over 50% of adolescents are taught about contraceptives, STD’s, how to say no to sex, and birth control between the 6th and 8th grade (Stewart). Some are taught in the years of elementary school and some don’t receive this information until their high school years. While learning about such serious topics in elementary and middle school may seem far too early, it is taught this soon because this is when it needs to be taught. “We have to introduce these topics early, because some students are already engaging in sexual intercourse and need to have the proper information to stay safe. We have to catch the students before they make bad decisions, end up in difficult situations, and its too late to prevent it” (Bodnar).. The fact that more teens are more knowledgeable has been a leading factor in the decline of teenage pregnancies.
Another way that teens are encouraged to refrain from sex or use contraceptives are the campaigns launched by popular companies and stories told through media such as 17 magazine and MTV.
The popular Candie’s fashion brand is well known for warning against teen pregnancy. The Candie’s Foundation was established in 2001 by Neil Cole, the owner of the fashion brand, and encourages girls to be safe or practice abstinence with the slogan “Don’t be a statistic”(Candie’s). Candie’s presents the idea that waiting for sex and being sexy can be a synonymous idea, which can appeals to some teenage girls a lot more than thinking of themselves as too modest or conservative or prude. They also use popular celebrities as cover girls for their campaigns, further inspiring girls to stay away from teen pregnancy.
In addition to campaigns, multiple companies believe in using stories of teens getting pregnant to discourage more girls from going down the same path. Seventeen Magazine publishes a sort of “learn from my experience” story each issue, told from the point of view of a teenage girl. Seventeen has featured stories about teen moms in this section, in addition to a girl who faked her own pregnancy as a social experiment for how she was treated would change if people thought she was pregnant. Seventeen also supports a campaign against teen pregnancy.
Another company that has brought much controversy to the subject of teen pregnancy and has profited no matter what is MTV. Through television shows like 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and Teen Mom 2 the difficult lives of teenage mothers has been broadcasted to the world (Teen Mom). Some argue that this show brings a realistic light to the world of a teen mom and may discourage others from following in the characters’ footsteps while others argue that it glorifies the world of a teenage pregnancy and the life that follows. According to interviews conducted by the Candie’s Foundation real teen mom’s find both good and bad in the series. Many said that the shows show the hardships of being a mother at such a young age, yet still manage to gloss over some of the details. The show Teen Mom features teen moms Maci, Farrah, Amber and Catelynn (Teen Mom). The show has followed their lives as teen moms since the first season of the show and provides insight into the money, family, and boy troubles they face each day (Teen Mom). The show truly portrays how frustrating and difficult it can be to be a teen mom to a degree. In some ways, you can never know. Reality television is rarely real. “I think it has both positive and negative effects. I watch these shows and I can relate to some of the girls. I think its positive in some ways because it shows real life stories and lets girls know that teen pregnancy is no joke. However, I just hope girls aren’t trying to get pregnant to get on t.v. or think to themselves “its not that bad” because you don’t know until you’ve lived the life yourself.” said teen mom Sarah Wilhelm to the Candie’s Foundation on the topic of how MTV portrays teen pregnancy (The Candies Foundation).
Whether the shows and media present a good or bad image or influence on teenagers throughout America, another perspective can be found on them. The fact of the matter is that despite our nation’s efforts to educate the youth of America on the consequences of sex, the education won’t affect teenagers as much as the media. “The only things I really know about teen pregnancy, I’ve learned from watching the MTV shows. Online Health didn’t teach me a thing, did it teach anybody anything?” said sophomore student of Pleasant Valley High School, Haylee Schimmel.
However, whether students are educated or not, teenage pregnancy is still going to happen. The main goal at this point in time is to take steps to further the decrease in teenage pregnancies. Luckily, through education, teachers, companies, and campaigns, this is happening.