In most countries, teen pregnancy and early motherhood are recognized as undesirable, whereas the local governments in most places make attempts and develop strategies aimed at decreasing the teen pregnancy rates. Whereas the overall fertility rates have significantly declined within the previous two decades, teenage births accounted for at least 7 per cent of the total amount. Even though there was a downward trend in the number of teenage pregnancies since the 1990s, the governments and special ministries continue developing special strategies aimed at reducing the number of young pregnancies, taking into account the potential threats to the teenagers’ and newborns’ health, psychosocial wellbeing and relationships in the families. Appropriate sex education and more focus on the emotional side of relationships can significantly improve the situation with teen pregnancy and early motherhood.
Teenage pregnancy has always been depicted as a problem and the result of an educational failure, which influenced the public opinion and shaped the stereotypes of a poor and socially excluded teenage mother. The stigma, partially resulting from the attitudes created by the media, and the governmental policies have had a dramatic influence on socialization of not only young mothers, but also their kids. The popular media usually depicted young motherhood as a negative phenomenon, associated with unhealthy lifestyles, poverty and social exclusion (Arai, 2009). Understanding that discussion teenage pregnancy as a problem might have negative consequences for the young families slightly changed the situation and public attitude. At the same time, some scholars claim that a woman’s marital status is much more important than her age. The marital status has a significant impact on a would-be mother’s economical wellbeing and moral support. Another important factor contributing to the successful family formation and conditions favorable for effective parenthood are post-compulsory education and the resulting chances for successful employment and financial independence (Arai, 2009). Moreover, with the rising costs of setting up an independent home, young parents feel more and more pressure, making a lot of experts agree that early fertility might have negative consequences for the rest of young parents’ social lives, as well as for the personal development and social role of their early kids.
A multidisciplinary analysis has shown that children of teenage parents, born to socially and economically disadvantaged mothers are under serious risks of academic underachievement, immaturity, emotional and behavioral difficulties. However, there’s evidence that effective and timely interventions through enhancing the protective factors in a child’s environment might significantly decrease the vulnerability and help both young mothers and their kids rehabilitate and better socialize. Therefore, teenage mothers need help of multi-professional teams of specialists. An important step to successful interventions is the recognition of social agencies the necessity of multidisciplinary interventions and continuous support of community (Holgate, Evans, & Yuen, 2006). The social media depiction and legislative norms remain the main underlying causes shaping the dominating negative attitude towards teenage pregnancy, predetermining the social exclusion and isolation of young mothers and their kids as well. Noticeable, whereas the mass media emphasizes the importance of social inclusiveness for all groups of population, it continues to contribute to the negative attitude towards pregnant teenagers, premature sexual behaviors and reproduction. The question of proper depiction of teenage pregnancy ion media is rather controversial. On one hand, positive depiction might be considered its promotion and involving even more teenagers. On the other hand, the negative depiction is the major contributing factor to the negative attitude and the resulting exclusion and the resulting social and psychological difficulties. Therefore, further research and deeper analysis are needed for developing more effective strategies and revolutionizing the public attitudes.
Whereas proper sex education in many places is regarded as a panacea for reducing the prevalence of teenage pregnancy, the effectiveness of the existing programs is below average. The current sex education programs offered by schools or churches usually choose between the two main approaches. The first one is abstinence-only approach, according to which postponing sexual life until after marriage is the only way to avoid teenage pregnancy; in these course teenagers do not receive appropriate information on effective contraception methods, whereas all contraception is treated as ineffective. The second approach sends comprehensive sex education messages, including the information on the existing contraception methods and their effectiveness. This second category also contains abstinence messages, but also provides information on birth control methods and the use of condoms for preventing sexually transmitted diseases. The findings from Kohler et al (2008) have revealed the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only sex education programs for delaying the initiation of sexual activity as well as decreasing the instances of teenage pregnancy. Meanwhile, comprehensive sex education programs were significantly more effective than no sex education or abstinence-only sex education for not only reducing prevalence of teenage pregnancies, but also reducing the risks of sexually transmitted diseases in teens.
Viewing teenage pregnancy as undesirable and depicting it as a negative phenomenon creates major difficulties faced by young mothers and their kids. Whereas effective and comprehensive sex education programs might help prevent teenage pregnancies or at least reduce their prevalence, some shifts in social media depiction and public attitude might help families overcome their social exclusion and receive effective multi-professional interventions they need.
Arai, L. (2009). Teenage pregnancy: the making and unmaking of the problem. The Policy Press: Bristol, VA.
Holgate, H., Evans, R., & Yuen, F. (2006). Teenage pregnancy and parenthood: Global perspectives, issues and interventions. Routledge: New York, NY.
Kohler et al. (2008). Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42: 344 – 351.