What are the forces behind Teen Parenthood?
Teen parenthood is a reality for 820,000 teens every year (teenhelp.com); bearing a child by a parent who may not be ready to nurture a physically, intellectually, and emotionally healthy child can lead to a lifetime of repeating the same patterns, or even worse. Teen pregnancy causes embarrassment among teens as well as leading to many of them putting off education temporarily or for good.
Studies have shown several characteristics linked to teen parenthood, many of which are individual, family and community related. For instance, adolescents that are in school and are positively engaged in learning more are less likely to have a baby than adolescents that don’t engage in extra-curricular activities, have negative attitudes towards school and are not that great at academics.
At the domestic level, studies show that teens that were born to mothers who gave birth as teens are more likely to have a baby in their teenage years than the teens that were born to mothers that were older and at least had some kind of higher education. At the community level, the adolescents living in affluent areas and neighborhoods are less likely to have a baby than adolescents that that live in neighborhoods with limited financial and income opportunities.
While these factors are prevalent among adolescent parents, there has been a substantial decline in teen pregnancies in recent years. In 2013, the average birth rate among adolescent females was about 26.5 births per 1,000 female teens. This birth rate showed a sharp decline of 10% from the teen birth rate in 2012, which was at 29.4 per 1,000 teen females. And this is not just something that has happened just once. Over the past 20 years, the birth rate in the US has been declining steadily, with the teen birth rate in 2013 about 51% less than the teen birth rate in 1990. While this is a good thing for the United States, it still lags behind Canada and United Kingdom when it comes to teen pregnancies.
What has caused this downward trends in teen parenthood?
There are 2 possibilities: either teens are having less sexual intercourse, or they are being more responsible while being sexually active, thus using contraceptives effectively and regularly. Between the years of 1995 and 2002, surveys found that about 86% of the decline in teen pregnancies was due to improvements in use of contraceptives, increase in use of multiple methods of birth control at once and decrease in the non-usage of contraceptives.
In between the years of 2003-2010, surveys found that the decline in teen parenthood had very little to do with not having sex; instead almost all of the decline was due to, again, substantial improvements in the use of contraceptives. And these percentages have been going down ever since, now being at quite a low level. People seem to think that teen parenthood has been going through the roof in the past few years, but in reality, it has never seen a decline like this before. And much of that progress is thanks to the public health programs that have successfully advocated their messages of safe sex in schools while providing effective sex education. If teens are educated properly about how contraceptive options work, they are more likely to avoid teen pregnancies. Because of that, instances of teen parenthood are only becoming lesser and lesser.