Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 12 September 2011

The Problem of Teen Pregnancy

By Sünje Schwarz



Teen pregnancy is a difficult problem to diagnose as it withstands many of the risk factors at least for some ethnic and racial groups. What seems more important is to provide access to information and healthcare to teens, in order to curb prejudices and stigma. Improved contraception use is one major reason teen pregnancy rates have declined.

The high rate of teen pregnancies in the United States continues to be a problem. Lack of information and healthcare and stigmatization can be cited as reasons for this problem.

Although the rate of teen births fell to the lowest rate of 39.1 births per 1,000 teenagers in 2009 (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011), it is still much higher than teen birth rates in comparable industrialized countries, such as the Netherlands, which has about 4 births per 1,000 teenagers or Japan, with about 5 births per 1,000 teenagers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). This high rate of teen births has a severe impact on society since about half of teen mothers will receive welfare within 5 years of giving birth (General Accounting Office, 1998).

Looking at the demographics of teen pregnancy, Hispanics in southern states were most likely to become pregnant and give birth and white teens in the Northeast and Midwest were least likely to become pregnant and give birth (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011). Additionally, teens growing up in urban areas are at a higher risk for pregnancy than their peers in rural areas (Robinson, Price, Thompson, & Schmalzried, 1998).

Knowing the demographics is a first step to identifying the risk factors that can lead to teen pregnancy, however, the demographics alone will not suffice in developing a comprehensive approach to combat the problem.

More importantly, the teens and their motivations need to be understood. Research has shown that parents are the most influential people on a teen’s decision to have sex. Parents are even more influential than their peers or any media outlet (Melby, 2010). Parental guidance can be an effective deterrent to teen pregnancy if sex is discussed at home (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011), however, some of that effect is lost in white teens if the mother had given birth as a teenager as well (General Accounting Office, 1998).

The socioeconomic status of the family can also have an impact on teen pregnancy; however, it is different for each racial and ethnic group, without a consistent pattern. A low socioeconomic status increases the risk for Hispanic teens but lowers it for black teens, while a higher socioeconomic status increases the risk for black teens. At the same time, the family structure had no impact on pregnancy rates of blacks, but living in a two-parent family home reduced the risk of teen pregnancy for Hispanic and white teens, hinting at a greater importance of family life for these groups (General Accounting Office, 1998).

While teens generally report being aware of the consequences of having sex and they know preventive measures are available (Crump, Haynie, Aarons, Adair, et al, 1999), the school’s education on the subject varies greatly. A vast majority of female and male teens received information on abstinence only, fewer received information on birth control and the fewest percentage of teens reported having received information on both (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011).

Another problem area is the perception of teen pregnancy. As a result of experiences from their friends, as well as various media outlets, teens are lead to believe that the impact of pregnancy would be small on them. They believe that while teen pregnancy may not be ideal, it would certainly be a manageable and even positive experience for some. At the same time, they do not believe their friendships with their peers would be impacted in a negative way by the pregnancy, but that the pregnancy may provide an opportunity for them to love and be loved. This would mean that social isolation is an important risk factor (Crump, Haynie, Aarons, Adair, et al, 1999).

At the same time, while religion seems to play a significant role in teens’ sexual behavior, the effect varies widely. Jewish teens are least likely to believe in abstinence, however, they do not think teen pregnancy is a desirable outcome and tend to use contraceptive measures to prevent pregnancy or wait. Another large group, the evangelical protestant teens, are most likely to believe in abstinence, yet, they are the least likely group to use contraception and they are the most sexually active group (Talbot, 2008).

All these implications make it difficult to solve the problem of teen pregnancy. Schools tried to further educate teens about the implications by introducing dolls that mimic infant behavior, however, these dolls are often a poor imitation and do not realistically reflect the impact a baby can have on a teen. As a result, they may not be enough of a deterrent for teens to prevent pregnancy (Somers & Fahlman, 2001).

Although over half of sexually active females received birth control (Vital signs: teen pregnancy, 2011), teens are concerned about contraceptive methods as a result of stories they heard from friends, family and media when contraception failed, or their boyfriend’s disapproval of the use of contraception (Crump, Haynie, Aarons, Adair, et al, 1999).

At the same time, teens may hesitate to terminate a pregnancy and choose giving birth instead because this subject has become a highly politicized and divisive issue (Gulli, Lunau, MacQueen, & McKinnell, 2008).

In order to further decrease the rates of teen pregnancy, teens need to be educated even more, and most importantly, they need access to health services that would help them prevent getting pregnant (New data on abstinence, 2010). The drop in teen pregnancy rates since 1991 can be contributed to the most part to the increased use of contraception but also to the fact that teens wait longer to have sex (U.S. teen pregnancy rates, 2007). Further action could include removing the stigma that comes with teen pregnancy, leading to an even broader acceptance and increased support for pregnant teens (Gulli, Lunau, MacQueen, & McKinnell, 2008). This could be done using mass media campaigns emphasizing the importance of safe sex, not only as a contraceptive method but also to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. This widespread distribution of information, in connection with unbiased comprehensive education in schools could lead to a change in how sexuality is viewed and present it as a normal behavior (Berne & Huberman, 2000).

The high teen pregnancy rates pose a significant burden for taxpayers, costing them at least $9.1 billion in 2004. To make matters worse, children of teen mothers are more likely to be placed in foster care, be incarcerated later in life or be subject to child abuse (Koch, 2006). The sociological dangers children of teen mothers face is high and a good support structure is needed for mother and child.

In the end, teens will be sexually active as it is a part of human life. To reduce the risk of teen pregnancy, teens need to be able to receive the information and healthcare they need. Additionally, teens need to be able to grow up knowing that they won’t be stigmatized for engaging in sexual activity.


Berne, L. A., & Huberman, B. K. (2000). Lessons Learned: European Approaches to Adolescent Sexual Behavior and Responsibility. Journal of Sex Education & Therapy, 25(2/3), 189-199. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011, July 1). Teen birth rates declined again in 2009. Retrieved from

Crump, A., Haynie, D., Aarons, S., Adair, E., Woodward, K., & Simons-Morton, B. (1999). Pregnancy among urban African-American teens: ambivalence about prevention. American Journal of Health Behavior, 23(1), 32-42. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

General Accounting Office, W. v. (1998). Teen Mothers: Selected Socio-Demographic Characteristics and Risk Factors. Report to the Honorable Charles B. Rangel, House of Representatives. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Gulli, C., Lunau, K., MacQueen, K., & McKinnell, J. (2008). Suddenly teen pregnancy is cool? (cover story). Maclean’s, 121(3), 40. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Koch, W. (2006, October 30). Fewer teens are giving birth, but cost to taxpayers still .. USA Today. Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

Melby, T. (2010). New study explains rise in teen birth rate. Contemporary Sexuality, 44(8), 1. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Robinson, K., Price, J., Thompson, C., & Schmalzried, H. (1998). Rural junior high school students’ risk factors for and perceptions of teen-age parenthood. Journal of School Health, 68(8), 334-338. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

New data on abstinence — what do they mean for teen pregnancy prevention? U.S. teen pregnancy rate rose 3% in 2006 after decade of decline. (2010). Contraceptive Technology Update, 31(4), 37-39. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Somers C, Fahlman M. (2001, May). Effectiveness of the “Baby Think It Over” teen pregnancy prevention program. Journal of School Health [serial online], 71(5):188-195. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA.

Talbot, M. (2008). RED SEX, BLUE SEX. New Yorker, 84(35), 64. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

U.S. teen pregnancy rates decline due to improved contraceptive use: abstinence promotion alone won’t stem unintended pregnancy rate. (2007). Contraceptive Technology Update, 28(3), 25-27. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Vital signs: teen pregnancy–United States, 1991–2009. (2011). MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 60(13), 414-420. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.


  1. […] Excerpt from: The Problem of Teen Pregnancy « Sunje's Random Notes […]

  2. Hurrah! Finally I got a blog from where I know how to truly take useful facts concerning my study and knowledge.

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