Teen Pregnancy

Too many teenagers want to get pregnant and have a baby. They’re too young, and we need to convince them to wait.

5 Things I’ve Read Recently:

1. Only 47 percent of teenage males and 58 percent of teenage females say they would be “very upset” if they got pregnant (or got someone pregnant).1 Eighteen percent of teenage guys and 14 percent of teenage girls say they would actually be “very” or “a little” pleased about the news.2
2. Teenagers who are sexually active are less likely to be “very upset” if they got pregnant (or got someone pregnant).3 Only 35 percent of sexually active teenage males and 43 percent of sexually active teenage girls would be very upset.4 That compares to 56 percent of teenage males who abstain from sex and 68 percent of teenage girls who have never had sex.5
3. Teenage mothers are less likely to complete high school, less likely to go to college, more likely to have large families, and more likely to be single, thus increasing the likelihood that they and their children will live in poverty.6
4. Babies born in the United States to teenage mothers are at risk for long-term problems in many areas of life, such as school failure, poverty, physical illness, and mental illness.7 The teenage mothers of these children are also at risk for these same problems.8
5. Only 38 percent of children born to teenage mothers are rated to be in “excellent” health.9 That compares to 60 percent of children born to non-teen mothers.10

Here’s My Take on It:

When I was in high school, if a teenager got pregnant, it was scandalous. Today, it’s still upsetting in some areas of the country—but not in others. At Gloucester High School in Gloucester, Massachusetts, 17 students made a pact to get pregnant—and did.11 Why are some teenagers becoming more open to getting pregnant and keeping the baby? The superintendent of that Massachusetts school district cited three reasons: 1) lack of love in their life, 2) no sense of direction in life, and 3) a low self-esteem.12 All three of these themes are named in Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets.13

To me, when we build young people’s Developmental Assets and give them the foundation they need to succeed, they will want things other than babies. Search Institute researchers have found that 50 percent of young people with 10 assets or fewer have sexual intercourse.14 That percentage drops as young people report more assets.15 For young people with 31 to 40 assets, only 6 percent of them have sexual intercourse.16 That means that having a baby isn’t on their list of goals. They’re thinking about the things that teenagers should be thinking about in life: how to do well in school, how to develop their talents and interests, how to make a difference in the world. When teenagers start thinking about having a baby, they not only need an attitude change, they need people building their Developmental Assets. They need to see that they can postpone having children as teenagers and grow up in ways that help them succeed.

Talk Further:

Ask your partner or another adult: “What can we do to encourage teens to wait until they’re older to have children?”

Explore Further:

How should we convince teenagers not to get pregnant? Share your comments below.

1. J.C. Abma, G.M. Martinez, and C.E. Copen, Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2008. National Center for Health Statistics, Vital Health Stat 23, no. 30 (2010).
2-5. Ibid.
6. D. Kirby, Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy).
7. American Academy of Children & Adolescent Psychiatry, “When Children Have Children,” Facts for Families, no. 31 (2004).
8. Ibid.
9. Florida State University Center for Prevention & Early Intervention Policy, Fact Sheet: The Children of Teen Parents (2005).
10. Ibid.
11. Jon Keller, “Gloucester Teens Had Pact to Get Pregnant,” WBZ-TV, Boston, a CBS affiliate, June 19, 2008.
12. Ibid.
13. Peter Benson, All Kids Are Our Kids: What Communities Must Do to Raise Caring and Responsible Children and Adolescents, second edition (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006).
14. Search Institute, Developmental Assets: A Profile of Your Youth, Executive Summary, unpublished report (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 2005).
15-16. Ibid.

I have used these 40 Developmental Assets with at-risk families for years. I believe in them wholeheartedly. The evidence you sight is true and should put our society on notice that we, as parents, need to do as much as we can to help our children develop as many ‘assets’ as possible. Our children are at risk and we (parents) are allowing them to be at risk.
Please, check out these 40 Developmental Assets. You owe it to your children!

John Weyenberg: http://www.parentinginfocus.com

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