Teen Pregnancy Research

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Social Construction of Teenage Pregnancy in the United States: Race, Class and Gender In the United States, an estimated forty five percent of all female teenagers have premarital sex. As a result, about forty percent of all female adolescents become pregnant at least once before age twenty; and about four-fifths of these pregnancies are unintended. Twenty percent of these female adolescents bear a child, and about half of them are unmarried (Lawson and Rhode, 2). In a society that associates age appropriate sexual behavior and marital status with the welfare of the family and community, this is a very alarming statistic to many. Throughout the past several decades American society has developed very strong, and many times mythical opinions about teenage pregnancy, the consequences it has on teen mothers, and the type of women contributing to these statistics. These mythical opinions consistently revolve around race, class and gender. Therefore, in this paper I will be examining the social constructions American society has developed about teenage pregnancy in relation to race, class, and gender as well as the misconceptions these social constructions lead to. It will be seen that societies views on teenage pregnancy often mask the understanding of the issue, and hinder the development of a solution. Teenage motherhood is an issue that has developed a very negative social construction in the United States. When this social construction is paired with that of racial minorities, the issue becomes even more daunting. While teenage pregnancy in general has attained a very negative stigmatization, the distress about minority groups, and especially African Americans, is expressed much more frequently and dramatically than that of their white counterparts. This has resulted in many misconceptions about the relationship between race and teenage motherhood as well as masked the understanding of the teenage motherhood trend versus aiding it. When examining the negative social constructions that have been created in the U.S., that of African Americans cannot be ignored, especially in relation to teenage pregnancy. The African American community has been labeled as the sole proprietors of the teenage motherhood phenomenon. Black mothers under the age of twenty are paid much closer attention to than white mothers under age twenty. This is especially true when they are single. Black teenage mothers are assumed to be producing problematic children who contribute very little, if anything, to society. If one were to ask a majority of Americans their thoughts on African Americans and teenage pregnancy, they would be very similar to the thoughts of a man recorded on a radio talk show when he stated, “Black teen mothers' children grow up in fatherless households with mothers who have few moral values and little control over their offspring. The boys join gangs; the girls stand a good chance of becoming teen mothers themselves”. This man’s opinion very clearly illustrates the negative association between blacks and early motherhood (Kaplan, xviii). The idea that African Americans are solely responsible for the teenage pregnancy phenomenon is highly influenced by the belief that black teenage mothers and fathers are morally unfit. Many believe them to have different moral values than those of non-minority teenagers of similar age. They are said to make their life decisions based on unmoral grounds and aspirations. This is a very inaccurate perception in many ways, however. When creating this presumption, many tend to look at the results of decisions made by young African American mothers, versus the environment influencing these decisions. In areas around the United States where teenage pregnancy is very common for African Americans, a number of social ills can be seen; unemployment, poor housing, gangs, drugs, and disrupted families are just to name a few (Kaplan, 19). Therefore, it is very important to recognize that...
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