The Intergenerational Cycle of Adolescent Pregnancy
The Intergenerational Cycle of Adolescent Pregnancy
Research shows that teenage birthrates have been on the decline during the last decade in the United States (Joyce et al., 2010). This may seem promising at first glance but when re-examined from a different perspective they reveal another picture. According to the National vital statistics report from 2008, the United States had 41.5 births per 1,000 women aged fifteen to nineteen (Joyce et al., 2010). This would amount to approximately 405,000 births per year (Ventura, 2009). Of those teen pregnancies, more than 80 percent are unintended and unwanted (“About Children”, 2008). Girls who find themselves pregnant with little support from their family fail to recover from the consequences of having a child at such an early age. There appears to be a cycle that certain high risk groups fall into. These risks cannot be looked at individually but rather in conjunction with other risks. When adolescent girls live in poverty with an unmarried mother, a generational series of lasting negative costs occur. The girls are more likely than their peers to stay in poverty and risk becoming teenage mothers themselves. Several studies have been done that have identified certain high and low risk social environments in terms of their connection to teenage pregnancy. Some of these high risk environments include being in a “lower class, resident in a ghetto neighborhood, non-intact family, five or more siblings, a sister who became a teenage mother, and lax parental control of dating” (Branch, 2006). Girls growing up in these disadvantaged homes will have a higher risk of becoming pregnant than girls their age living in better conditions. In fact, 57 percent of the teenagers that live in these conditions experienced a pregnancy before the age of 18 (Branch, 2006). “One in three American women conceives by the time she is 20,” according to Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. These are alarming statistics especially when comparing the U.S. pregnancy rate to those of other industrialized nations. The findings are staggering; the U.S. has a rate that is four times higher than other nations (Stephens, 2004). Unmarried mothers gave birth to 4 out of every 10 babies born in the United States in 2007 and 23% of those are unmarried teenagers (Harris, 2009). Currently, there is not as much of a stigma to being unmarried as there was several decades ago. In those days, many women who found themselves pregnant often married before giving birth and thus effectively solving the “problem” of teenage pregnancy. The divorce rate in subsequent years escalated and many of the young adults that had experienced the pain of divorce made decisions to stay unmarried even if they found themselves pregnant. This shift in thinking has brought about a new generation of children growing up in single parent homes. Currently, there are 7,543,000 children under 18 living in a home with a mother who has never been married (“America’s Families”, 2010). Because 87 percent of pregnant teens are unmarried it is likely that she will lack the resources she needs to financially take care of her child (“Facts on”, 2011). The young woman will usually have the burden of providing majority of the expenses for her child since the father of the child is quite often not contributing enough child support. This leaves the teenage mother with a small amount of options. She may find herself living on government assistance if she has no support from her immediate family. In fact, eighty percent of all teen mothers rely on welfare at some point in their parenting (“About Children”, 2008). According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, families and children are defined as poor if family income is below the poverty threshold. The federal poverty level for a family of four with two children was $22,050 in 2009,...
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Facts on american teens ' sexual and reproductive health
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