Children Having Children: Why Is It A Problem, And What Policy Changes Can Help Prevent It?

2548 words - 11 pages

Although many people in the United States may equate teen pregnancy with minorities in the inner city and lower class women from rural areas, this problem is growing to encompass the entire cross-section of American society. It has become a plague of sorts that perpetuates poverty through the decrease in desire to obtain education and job skills that the young mother may otherwise develop. This, in turn, expands the community of citizens living in conditions well below what constitutes the poverty line. While many efforts are made to educate the public to avoid this problem, it still exists, though at a lower rate than in the past. This paper will seek to explore historical perspectives of ...view middle of the document...

The puritanical values of European-Americans persisted, and "fornicators" were passed off as a burden on society as a whole. Due to the religiosity of those in leadership positions, the government passed laws, such as the Comstock law, which maintained the values of the pious concerning birth control, but thus undermined the larger issue of "bastardy" (Rhode, 642). In that era of austere and patrilineal governance, the mother excessively bore the onus of childcare. She had no choice but to marry the father, or be a drain on her family, assuming they would continue to support her despite social ostracism. If it were possible to determine paternity, oftentimes it was impossible to locate the father and seek support (Rhode, 637). While our culture has come to see abortion as an alternative form of birth control, 39% of unintended pregnancies end in it (Kahn et al, 30), common-law in the 1800s only approved of it before "quickening," when the child began to move in the womb, which is thought to be the time when the child gains it soul (Rhode 641-2). Today's new conservative movement has begun to push abstinence as the best form of birth control. Jeremiah Denton, writer of the Adolescent and Family Life Act (AFLA), clearly demonstrates this by saying, "the most effective oral contraceptive yet devised is the word 'no'" (Rhode 652). While this truly has the lowest failure rate, because who can get pregnant without sex, this places those that are sexually active at a much higher risk for unintended pregnancy because they are less educated as to the other forms of birth control available. Even today, groups such as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy are disproving the effectiveness of the abstinence-only education method, and encouraging more instruction that is comprehensive. A study in Family Relations considered the efficacy of several abstinence-only education programs, and concluded, "there is little compelling evidence that purely abstinence programs are effective in changing coital or contraceptive behaviors that would impact teenage pregnancy" (Christopher, 386). The question of why this occurs is one that constantly plagues sociologists, anthropologists, public health officials, and policy makers. Several risk factors play together to form the large part of this answer, but it is still not understood how they interact. Let us first look at what exactly these risk factors are. The most obvious of the risk factors is "When are teens beginning to have sex?" According to a publication by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the median age at first sex was 17.2 (Darroch et al, 247). While this does not seem to be an unreasonable age for most young people to begin having sex, those most at risk for unintended pregnancies, due mainly to socioeconomic status, engage in coital behavior at an earlier age. By 17, 80% of black males and 60% of black females are sexually experienced (Abma and Sonenstein, 10)....

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