The issue of early pregnancies that have not been planned for is one of the challenges affecting many teenagers worldwide. It is widely used in media anlysis. Statistics reveal that in the United States, for example, the percentage of teenage pregnancy is higher when compared to other developed states. Due to the age and level of maturity, they face many problems including the inability to support their children. In an attempt to define this phenomenon, various researchers and organizations have suggested diverse ways in which teenage pregnancy can be explained. For instance, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) claims that teenage pregnancy is a situation when a female of between the age of 15 and 19 and who has not legally attained maturity yet becomes pregnant. This paper will focus on determining some of the factors that may lead to teenage pregnancy, the cost implications and other consequences of early pregnancy as well as some of the strategies that can be used to address and, hence, reduce the percentage of pregnancy among teenagers.
Causes of Teenage Pregnancy
Generally, a combination of social and cultural as well as financial factors tends to lead to the elevated proportion of early pregnancy amongst various teenagers. Broken families and those experiencing financial problems increase the risk of pregnancy among young adults. Research has revealed that children who have grown up in such families face the risk of child abuse and victimization and, hence, they easily develop a variety of hitches during their adolescent stages one of which includes sexual promiscuity due to their rebellious attitude. Most of these kids may end up finding themselves in conflict with the law, running away from home, and becoming drug abusers.
Closely related to the reason outlined above is the inability of parents to sustain their children financially due to poverty and unemployment. Kids born in such families are forced to become their bread winners by trying to find a source of income which is very difficult considering their lack of skill and expertise. They, therefore, end up engaging in immoral jobs such as prostitution which is the number one factor that leads to early pregnancy.
Peer pressure from friends and other people is yet another force that can lead to early pregnancy. This occurs especially when a teenager associates with friends who like flirting and have immoral sexual tendencies. Many of such adolescents tend to engage in intimate and irresponsible teenage relationships with their friend of the opposite gender. Consequently, the probability of them engaging in premarital sex is high leading to early pregnancies. In addition, associating with friends with bad behavior may influence a child to get into alcohol and drug abuse which are aspects that might provoke the irresponsible sexual behavior.
Furthermore, many adolescents worldwide face the risk of being abused sexually and raped due to their vulnerability leaving a large percentage of children pregnant. A research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, for instance, reveals that approximately 43 to 62 per cent of the youth blame their early pregnancies on rape by adult male. Additionally, what makes it worse is the fact that around two-thirds of such victims acknowledge that the father of their babies is around 27 years of age and above.
The level of gullibility and lack of awareness among teenagers has also led many children into engaging in irrational intimate sexual relationships leading to unintended pregnancies. Owing to their age and maturity levels, most of them do not have proper understanding of their emotional traits and body changes that affect their sexuality. Therefore, the probability of misleading them by giving wrong information is high. They may obtain such erroneous facts from friends, movies, or even adults. Most adolescents do not also possess the information necessary to make cognizant and responsible choices about whether to engage in sex relationships that have the potential of changing their lives significantly.
Finally, another widespread cause of teenage pregnancy is low self-esteem. This is a disorder that is common among children from family settings where parents and relatives do not accord them the affection they require during their phases of development. Low self-worth can also result from teenage intimidation which is common in school and may go undetected by parents and teachers. Subsequently, such children look for affection from their peers who may be ill mannered and might coerce them into having sex when they are not ready. They also try to find the love among adults who may easily lure them into sexual relationships due to their susceptibility.
Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy
The consequences of teenage pregnancy are twofold: one group relates to the teenage mother herself and the baby and another one concerns persons around her including her parents, the baby’s father and the economy among others.
First and foremost, the effects are the most adverse on the babies. Children born by teenage mothers are vulnerable and more likely to experience the negative effects as opposed to those born by mature women. Such kids are likely to have delays in development of both physical and mental features. They are also susceptible to high infant mortality rates, that is, dying before they reach a certain age. Unlike their counterparts born by mature mothers, these children are likely to be to be born with lower birth weights which is an abnormality in itself. In addition to being underweight, most of them are born prematurely that minimizes their chances of survival. On top of the physical defects, the children are also likely to experience poor mental development exhibited by lower academic achievement, delinquency, poverty and unemployment later in their lives.
Teenage mums are hit the hardest by the consequences of such pregnancies. They range from health complications to social problems among others. Teenage motherhood is likely to result in school dropouts. Studies show that less than 30 percent of teenage mothers earn their high school diplomas. This implies that once a child bears a child she has very high chances of leaving school. Another effect on teenage mums is that they go through a lot of psychological torture and trauma. The young child is usually in a state of regret for actions that have led to the pregnancy and faces neglect from friends and family. In addition, most of the fathers deny their responsibility, and even if they do accept it, they offer very little or no emotional support. Teenage mums are more often than not from poor families. This means that they face a huge financial challenge as the mother is now forced to fend for herself as well as for her new born baby. Socially, the young girl becomes detached from both friends and family since, in most cases, they tend to ignore her feelings and emotions. This can also result in post natal depression of the young mother once she gives birth. Furthermore, inadequate access to maternal services is another effect of teenage pregnancy, and it is dangerous because it can lead to retarded growth of the child. This lack of parental care could be a result of the following factors: late realization that she is pregnant, prioritization of other issues such as housing as critical over healthcare, transport to and from clinic especially in rural areas being a challenge.
The dads of the children are mostly fellow teenagers or younger adults who are not stable enough and are also adversely affected by the unplanned pregnancies. Just like the teenage mums, they also undergo psychological torture and mental anguish. They are usually distressed and have no idea as to how to go about the pregnancy, and they are often confused of which roles to play in the unborn child’s development. Fathers are also detached from their kids once they are born because in most cases, they live with their parents or in hostel accommodation. Even when the child’s mother is taken in for supported accommodation, they are denied the opportunity to live with them. In addition to the above mentioned, males do not receive support services and information on how to handle the responsibility of fatherhood.
The economic aspect of child pregnancy cannot be overlooked. It not only affects the persons involved but also the whole economy. Teenage mothers run a high risk of not finishing high school which implies a lower income and increased poverty levels that means additional costs to the welfare system. The above mentioned impacts of teenage childbearing decrease the mother’s as well as the child’s productivity when they become adults which has the effect of increasing taxpayer’s costs.
Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy
Different communities have approached the teenage pregnancy challenge differently undertaking initiatives best suited to them. However there some basic strategies that can be applied to all societies include the following:
1. Use of the social media, school websites and other platforms that resonate with teenagers to educate them on the causes, likely effects and how they could avoid situations that lead to child pregnancy. This should include addressing them in the language that they understand. The target audience should not only be the teenagers themselves but their parents as well.
2. Advocacy. This involves the direct cooperation with schools management to introduce policies of mandatory sexual health education in the institutions.
3. The availing of contraceptives to teenagers. Although skeptics will argue that this encourages teenagers to have sex, it will nonetheless go a long way in assisting in the combat against teenage pregnancy. This initiative can be achieved by installation of condom dispensers at strategic points, establishment of a mail order system for requisition of condoms as well as encouraging the education of safe sex practices for students.
4. Using stakeholders can also be a very effective method of fighting with the teenage pregnancy. As this problem is a societal concern many diverse stakeholders are involved, and this implies that the advocacy against teenage pregnancy is likely to yield a lot of success.
Teenage pregnancy is a major problem affecting thousands of youth all over the globe and, hence, raising the need to address it. There are numerous factors in the current society that have contributed to the increase in the percentage of teenagers conceiving at an early age. Some of these factors include poverty, family problems, peer pressure, and sexual abuse among other reasons. The consequences of unexpected pregnancies affect many stakeholders especially the mother, the father in the case of male children who have to assume parental responsibility at a tender age and, above all, the new born baby. Such challenges majorly arise due to financial constraints. In order to prevent this problem, programs should be put in place with the intention of creating awareness among young people.