Teenage pregnancy is still prevalent despite policies and programs that deal with prevention. The sexual revolution has led to more sexual freedoms, but, also, more available contraception. Since contraception is widely available and frequently used social factors or “sexual politics” are reviewed to explain the high numbers of young births in this article.
Why Teenagers Engage in Intercourse
? Many young girls self-report that they first have sex to “get it over with”, while boys may be more inclined to do so to avoid negative comments from their peers. Sexual activity is a rite of passage and most teenagers are compelled to take part in this from peer pressure and a desire to feel more mature.
? There is less of a social stigma than in previous generations if a young girl or boy engages in sexual activity. Though the sexual revolution helped remove these stigmas, talk about sex with parents and other adults are still relatively taboo. Most of the teenagers cited in the article showed an unwillingness from parents to discuss sexuality.
? Contraception and family planning clinics are easily accessible and may lead teenagers to feel a sense of control over their activities.
The Contradictions of Contraception
? A 1988 survey concluded that about 80% of teenagers were using some form of contraception. The numbers were a bit lower 72.5% for poor teenagers and only slightly higher for more affluent teens.
? About half of teenage pregnancies end in abortion, which is problematic for Conservative policy makers.
? Research suggests that contraceptive methods change from relationship to relationship and the “in-between” relationship phase is when a young girl is most likely to get pregnant (i.e. after a break-up).
? The idea that it a woman’s responsibility for birth control is still prevalent. Therefore, if a young girl gets pregnant it is in a sense “her fault” or “her problem”.
? The contradiction of contraception is that if a young girl does have birth control of any kind, it represents the fact that she anticipated sex (making her seem promiscuous). If she does not have contraception it is quite probable that her male counterpart will not have any form of birth control, putting the young couple at risk for teenage pregnancy.
The Social Contract of Sex
? Many teenagers put a value on sex and the issue of disregarding birth control may represent a form of trust or bond with their partners.
? One study done by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that only 7% of teenage births were anticipated and planned, but social scientists have found differing data on this. The National Survey of Family Growth found that 85% of white teens desired their babies while 70% of black teens revealed their intention to conceive their children. It may be that the discussion of sex with teenagers to the researchers yielded unreliable data due to the taboo of these issues.
? In 1990 it was found that 1/3 of children born to teenagers were children of a marriage (mostly 18 and 19 year olds). Childbearing in the teen years only seems to present itself as a public issue when the mother is unwed.
? Many young women may be willing to have sex and to bear children, but marriage is declining for all ethnic groups. Social Scientists contribute this to the value placed on marriage and the fact that most women recognize that they will be unequal partners in a union. Marriage does not warrant equality or happiness and teenagers learn this early.
? The issue of most concern here is the sexual politics of the genders and the unwillingness for each side to strive for equality, respect, and understanding.
? Out-of-wedlock births for all women are occurring at frequently higher rates globally, not only in America.
? Childbearing is no longer connected to marriage or a lasting union, which is of concern to many social scientists. Marriage and remarriage (with or without children) is on the decline as well.
? Despite all the studies and availability of contraception the United States still remains the highest of all industrialized countries for teenage childbirth. Only further research can help Social Scientists understand this phenomenon.