Teen pregnancy is a general situation and a social issue of every country in the world. The increase in teen pregnancy is very high nowadays. Particularly in the United States, statistic shows that 3 out of 10 American teen girls get pregnant at least once before age 20 and that’s nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies every year. Teen pregnancy happens more often due to the lack of sex education and the impact of the media. It is a serious issue that may negatively impact teen mothers, their babies, and the society. Therefore, this paper will address the problems of teen pregnancy in the United States and propose methods for solving them.
According to Teen Pregnancy Statistics, the pregnancy rate for teenagers have been declining in the United States since 1990s (from 116.8 in 1990 to 70.6 in 2005 per 1,000 women). Likewise, teen birth rates decreased sharply from 1991 through 2010 and reached a historic low at 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15–19. Despite a 40 percent drop over two decades, still, the number of pregnancy, abortion and birth rates for teens age 15 to 19 in the U.S. are still the highest among developed countries. “There are significantly more teenage pregnancies in the United States than all other developing countries” said Cleo Moore in the Complete and Authoritative Guide. He also mentioned that out of every five women in their teens, the number will become pregnant is two in the United States. Teen pregnancy rates are also different geographically and ethnically. In 2008, the teen pregnancy rate among African-American and Hispanic teen girls, age 15 to 19, was over two and a half times higher than the teen pregnancy rate among white teen girls of the same age group.
Common reasons for teen pregnancy are lack of adequate sex education from schools and parents, influence of the media, peer pressure and unwanted sexual intercourse.
Sex education not only provides teens with knowledge about sex and sexuality, but also builds the correct conception about role and responsibility of men and woman in marital, family and society. Unfortunately, busy lives keep parents from providing the necessary guidance, support, and care to their young teenagers. In some cases, parents feel that sex is an embarrassing topic to talk to their children. That’s why they are very hesitate to bring the topic up. Or, they keep postpone the talk because they are not sure when to start educating their children. Studies have found that teenager in the US usually has sex before adolescence. Those usually come from an unhappy families where their parents do not care about their children’s psychological life and love. There are some of teenagers who even feel lonely living in their own houses.
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Schools, on the other hand, don’t pay enough attention to sex and contraceptive education courses since they don’t not have much to do with academics. In 2008, New Mexico, Mississippi, Texas, Nevada, Arkansas and Arizona are the states that had the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation. Amazingly, these six states had one thing in common: they all had poor sexual education in schools. Lack of sex education also leads to inconsistent use of birth control. Teens may use birth control to help prevent teen pregnancy, but most do not use contraceptives consistently. A sexually active teen that does not use any birth control has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year.
Teenager is an important transition stage from a child to become an adult. In this period, the personality and behavior of teen are being formed. Without proper sexual instructions, teens are more likely to get incorrect information from friends, videos, sitcoms, TV shows, or movies. The media and movie industry put up a lot of shows which involve teen pregnancy, but fail to point out the difficulties teens have to face during pregnancy and after giving birth to the child. They make teens believe that early adolescent childbearing is not that big of a deal, and consequently, encourage teens to engage in reckless sexual activity. According to Planned Parenthood, “one in three television programs in America contains a scene devoting primary emphasis to sexual behavior, and one in 10 contains a scene in which intercourse is depicted or strongly implied, yet sexual precautions and the consequences of sexual behavior are rarely depicted.” In addition to that, during adolescence, teens always want to be part of the group. That puts them under more pressure to fit in with their peers. Sometimes, teens just have sex because their friends all do it and brag about it, not because they really want or know the consequences of doing so.
Last but not least, unwanted sex intercourse is also one of the reasons that teen pregnancies occur. Sexually abused or raped by boyfriends, family members and even strangers can result in teen pregnancy. Approximately 5 percent of all teen births are the result of a rape. Moreover, most teenage girls who engage in sexual activity, and especially those who do so before the age of 15, admit that they wish they had waited. But often they feel pressure from their boyfriends: three out of four girls (75 percent) report that the reason they have sex is because their boyfriends want them to. Most of these teens regret it later, whether or not they become pregnant.
A prevalent myth in Britain is that teenage girls believe there are economic and social advantages in having a baby. However, contrary to such speculation, several research studies report that the majority of teenage pregnancies are unplanned, and the results for the mother and her child in terms of life chances are negative.
First of all, teen pregnancy is a life-changing situation because when pregnant, teen mothers suffer disruption of learning and often face economic difficulties. They are more likely to drop out of high school. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma when they are 22, compared with approximately 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence. With their education cut short, a teenage mother may lack job skills, making it hard for her to find and keep a sustainable job. As a result, she has to depend on public assistance and is more likely to live in poverty. In addition, because of guilt, shame and cannot find a solution adapted to the circumstances too inadequacies, adolescents often seek the services of unsafe abortion. These abortion procedures often cause complications, sometimes dangerous to life. The psychological effects after abortion can be very heavy and lasted throughout their life.
Secondly, teen mothers are greatly disadvantaged when it comes to giving birth and raising their children. Pregnancy in adolescence negative impacts on the health of the young mother because their bodies are still not fully developed. In fact, the death rate from pregnancy complications is a lot higher for girls who are pregnant under the age of 15 than among other teenagers. The professionals reproductive health care said that the girls in adolescents who aged from 13 to 19 years old, when pregnancy are at higher risk of preterm birth is 93% than the mature women. The mortality rate of children born from adolescent mothers is higher than the mothers who gave birth in adulthood. Besides, teens lack the skills needed to take care of their babies and themselves after giving birth.
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Thirdly, a baby born to a teen mother is more at risk than one born to a grown woman for premature birth, low birth weight, and even death. Teen mothers’ unhealthy lifestyle, such as eating unhealthy foods, smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs can also increase the risk that a baby will be born with health problems. Also, the children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement and drop out of high school and have problems about health more. And the daughters of teen mothers are 22 percent more likely than their peers to become teen mothers.
Finally, teen pregnancy is extremely costly. Teen pregnancy and childbearing bring substantial social and economic costs through immediate and long-term impacts on teen parents and their children. In 2011, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for at least $9.4 billion of U.S. taxpayers to increased health care and foster care, and lost tax revenue.
Based on the causes mentioned earlier, reducing teen pregnancy rate boils down to family support, adequate sex education, and media campaign.
First and foremost, despite the rush of every life, parents should always spend quality time with their kids to know what they are doing, how they are doing those and what questions they are having in mind. Besides talking about sex early and often, parents should openly share with teens about their own sexual values and how they feel about sexual activities. It is also very crucial for parents to be there for their children through thick and thin. When it comes to admit to their parents that they are carrying unwanted pregnancies, teens usually feel scared, embarrassed, and confused. Thus, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to solve the problem alone. This is the time when parents play an important role in guiding adolescents. They might have immediate reactions and get very angry when they found out the truth, however, parents need to stay calm and ultimately, figure a way to work things out with their children. Instead of scolding, parents need to recognize their shortcomings in teaching children, and recognize the difficulties of adolescents when they have to face with this harsh reality. They need to explain what will happen to help ease the tension and confusion. Also, parents should help teens adapt to the situation and develop a plan for the future. In a nutshell, what parents should always remember doing is to stay by their children’s sides and remain supportive.
Another way of preventing teenage pregnancy is to educate teens with more facts about sex and various contraceptive techniques. Sex courses offered in schools should emphasize the importance of abstaining from sex and teach students about different forms of birth controls, condoms, and other available methods of prevention. Besides, educate teens on how to communicate and negotiate with their partners is also a useful way to avoid unwanted and unsafe sex. Furthermore, it is very important that schools provide counseling services along with sex education so that teens can walk in and directly ask questions. That way, if teens cannot discuss sex-related matters with their parents, they know exactly where they should go and whom they should talk to.
Lastly, developed countries such as Netherland, Germany, and France are successful in keeping teen birth rates low by promoting healthy, lower-risk sexual behavior through national media campaigns. Since the media has been proved to be one of the factors that shape attitudes and behaviors of teenagers, it is a good idea to put up more educational shows to inspire teens and help them figure out what to do with their lives for the future. Plus, media campaigns certainly are an effective way to reach large numbers of teen without spending a whole lot of money. In fact, several national organizations and states in the U.S. have asked the media for assistance. “Between 1997 and 1999 alone, the number of states conducting media campaigns increased from 15 to 36. Typically, such campaigns use both print and electronic media to reach large numbers of young people with messages designed to change their behavior.”
In my opinion, the best course of action to prevent teen pregnancy is sex education. No matter where teens grow up, who their parents are, and how much they care about them, if teens are educated well enough at school, they will have the capability to make the right decision. It is worth noticing, though, that teens are going to be involved in sexual relations no matter how much schools emphasize on abstinence from sex. Although it is a 100-percent guaranteed way to avoid pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections, making that choice and stay committed to it is especially difficult in today’s American culture. Therefore, educate teens about prepare them with knowledge of various contraceptive techniques are extremely important. Whether using barrier or hormonal methods, contraception can help to avoid pregnancy. Furthermore, schools also need to focus on educating male teenagers on safe sex practices and make them aware of the responsibilities and pressures of becoming a young father.
The topic of teenage pregnancy has been a focus of public concern and has generated debate among academics, health professionals and politicians. Teen pregnancy is bad for the mother, bad for the child, and bad for the society as well. Though all the problems caused by early pregnancy and parenthood are never going to go away, there are certain things families, schools, and communities can do to keep the rates low, such as educate teens about sex, relationships, pregnancy, and parenthood, strengthen teens’ bonds with family, offer career counseling services, and run media campaigns.
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