Teenage Pregnancy

Although the rate of teenage pregnancy in the United States has declined greatly
within the past few years, it is still an enormous problem that needs to be
addressed. These rates are still higher in the 1990's than they were only a
decade ago. The United State's teenage birthrate exceeds that of most other
industrialized nations, even though American teenagers are no more sexually
active than teenagers are in Canada or Europe. (Gormly 348) Recent statistics
concerning the teen birthrates are alarming. About 560,000 teenage girls give
birth each year. Almost one-sixth of all births in the United States are to
teenage women are to teenage women. Eight in ten of these births resulted from
unintended pregnancies. (Gormly 347) By the age of eighteen, one out of four
teenage girls will have become pregnant. (Newman 679) Although the onset of
pregnancy may occur in any teenager, some teens are at higher risk for unplanned
pregnancy than others. Teenagers who become sexually active at an earlier age
are at a greater risk primarily because young teenagers are less likely to use
birthcontrol. African-American and Hispanic teenagers are twice as likely to
give birth as are white teenagers. Whites are more likely to have abortions.

Teenagers who come from poor neighborhoods and attend segregated schools are at
a high risk for pregnancy. Also, teenagers who are doing poorly in school and
have few plans for the future are more likely to become parents than those who
are doing well and have high educationsl and occupational expectations. Although
the rate of teenage pregnancy is higher among low- income African-Americans and

Hispanics, especially those in inner city ghettoes, the number of births to
teenagers is highest among white, nonpoor young women who live in small cities
and towns. (Calhoun 309) In addition to the question of which teenagers become
pregnant, interest is shown in the social consequences of early parenthood.

Adolescent parents (mostly mothers) may find that they have a "lost or
limited opportunity for education." (Johnson 4) The higher a woman's level
of education, the more likely she is to postpone marriage and childbearing.

Adolescents with little schooling are often twice as likely as those with more
education to have a baby bafore their twentieth birthday. Some 58% of young
women in the United States who receive less than a high school education give
birth by the time they are twenty years old, compared with 13% of young women
who complete at least twelve years of schooling. (Tunick 11) Teens who become
pregnant during high school are more likely to drop out. (Calhoun 310) A teen
mother leaves school because she cannot manage the task of caring for a baby and
studying, and a teen father usually chooses a job over school so that he can pay
bills and provide for his child. (Johnson 4) Teen mothers usually have fewer
resources than older mothers because they have had less time to gather savings
or build up their "productivity" through work experience, education,
or training. (Planned Parenthood 1) Because of this, teen mothers are generally
poor and are dependent on government support. (Newman 679) The welfare system is
usually the only support a teen parent will receive. Welfare benefits are higher
for families with absent fathers or dependent children. (Calhoun 309) In some
cases, teen mothers may also receive help like Medicaid, Food Stamps, and
"Aid to Families with Dependent Children" (AFDC). (Newman 679) Besides
educational and financial problems, teenage mothers may face a great deal of
emotional strain and may become very stressed. Teen mothers may have limited
social contacts and friendships because they do not have time for anything other
than their baby. Lack of a social life and time for herself may cause the
teenage mother to become depressed or have severe mental anxiety. (Johnson 5)

Depression may become worse for a teenage mother because she usually does not
know much about child development or about how to care for their children.

Children who are born to teenage mothers usually suffer from poor parenting. (Berk

188) Also, children of teenage parents start being sexually active before their
peers and they are more likely to become teenage parents themselves. These
children may also suffer from financial difficulties similar to that of their
parents. "Children whose mothers are age seventeen or younger are three
times as likely as their peers to be poor, and are likely to stay poor for a
longer period of time." (Calhoun 311) The children born to teenage mothers
sometimes score lower on development tests than the children of older mothers.

It seems that "rather than declining over time, educational deficits
increase