The Intergenerational Cycle of Adolescent Pregnancy The Intergenerational Cycle of Adolescent Pregnancy Research shows that teenage birthrates have been on the decline during the last decade in the United States (Joyce et al. , 2010). This may seem promising at first glance but when re-examined from a different perspective they reveal another picture. According to the National vital statistics report from 2008, the United States had 41. 5 births per 1,000 women aged fifteen to nineteen (Joyce et al. , 2010). This would amount to approximately 405,000 births per year (Ventura, 2009).
Of those teen pregnancies, more than 80 percent are unintended and unwanted (“About Children”, 2008). Girls who find themselves pregnant with little support from their family fail to recover from the consequences of having a child at such an early age. There appears to be a cycle that certain high risk groups fall into. These risks cannot be looked at individually but rather in conjunction with other risks. When adolescent girls live in poverty with an unmarried mother, a generational series of lasting negative costs occur.
The girls are more likely than their peers to stay in poverty and risk becoming teenage mothers themselves. Several studies have been done that have identified certain high and low risk social environments in terms of their connection to teenage pregnancy. Some of these high risk environments include being in a “lower class, resident in a ghetto neighborhood, non-intact family, five or more siblings, a sister who became a teenage mother, and lax parental control of dating” (Branch, 2006). Girls growing up in these disadvantaged homes will have a higher risk of becoming pregnant than girls their age living in better conditions.
In fact, 57 percent of the teenagers that live in these conditions experienced a pregnancy before the age of 18 (Branch, 2006). “One in three American women conceives by the time she is 20,” according to Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. These are alarming statistics especially when comparing the U. S. pregnancy rate to those of other industrialized nations. The findings are staggering; the U. S. has a rate that is four times higher than other nations (Stephens, 2004).
Unmarried mothers gave birth to 4 out of every 10 babies born in the United States in 2007 and 23% of those are unmarried teenagers (Harris, 2009). Currently, there is not as much of a stigma to being unmarried as there was several decades ago. In those days, many women who found themselves pregnant often married before giving birth and thus effectively solving the “problem” of teenage pregnancy. The divorce rate in subsequent years escalated and many of the young adults that had experienced the pain of divorce made decisions to stay unmarried even if they found themselves pregnant.
This shift in thinking has brought about a new generation of children growing up in single parent homes. Currently, there are 7,543,000 children under 18 living in a home with a mother who has never been married (“America’s Families”, 2010). Because 87 percent of pregnant teens are unmarried it is likely that she will lack the resources she needs to financially take care of her child (“Facts on”, 2011). The young woman will usually have the burden of providing majority of the expenses for her child since the father of the child is quite often not contributing enough child support.
This leaves the teenage mother with a small amount of options. She may find herself living on government assistance if she has no support from her immediate family. In fact, eighty percent of all teen mothers rely on welfare at some point in their parenting (“About Children”, 2008). According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, families and children are defined as poor if family income is below the poverty threshold. The federal poverty level for a family of four with two children was $22,050 in 2009, $21,200 in 2008, and $20,650 in 2007.
National data from 2008 states that there are 15,502,947 children from single-parent families living in poverty. Of those numbers, 45 percent of children are being raised by divorced mothers and 69 percent are never-married mothers. Nearly six of 10 children living with only their mother were near (or below) the poverty line (“Low-income”, 2009). Christina Meade, from the Department of Psychology at Yale University, published a study done in 2008. She states that “Teenage childbearing has adverse consequences for both the mother and child” (Meade, 2008).
Her research shows that children of adolescence mothers are more likely than children of older mothers to become teenage parents themselves. She also points out that the consequences of teenage motherhood often lead to lower academic achievement. Adolescent mothers are significantly less likely to receive a high-school diploma than women who postpone childbearing. Without higher education, a young woman has very limited choices in the job market so she ends up staying on welfare for a number of years or takes a low paying job. She may need to rely on government assistance to help pay for childcare costs.
The childcare more often than not is of low quality and could result in her child having learning difficulties along with psychological issues. The unmarried, pregnant adolescent raises her child in an environment without the father of the child being present. Many studies have proven that when the father is absent in the home, there is a very high risk for the young girl to engage in early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy (Bruce Ellis, 2003). Another problem is that the teenage mother often subjects her daughter to a variety of different males she dates.
Over time, the daughter forms a conceptual image of what relationships are supposed to look like. Since she is exposed to her mother repartnering, she is more likely to repeat her mother’s actions believing that there is not any harm in it. Not being able to stay in a stable relationship is another characteristic of risky behavior which leads itself to unwanted pregnancies. When comparing pregnant teenagers from low-income families to middle-class families, there tends to be a propensity for the low-income teenager to keep her baby instead of aborting it.
Girls from middle-class families have more opportunities after the age of 18 to go to college and become better skilled which in turn leads to better paying jobs. They know this and a good percentage will abort their babies knowing that if they did not, the opportunity cost would be great. Girls from low-income families think differently. They already see themselves with very limited futures and when pregnant, they decide to keep their babies because they don’t believe they have much to lose by doing so. From 1991 to 2002, the teenage birth rate fell 30 percent.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy published a report in 2005 showing how many more children would be living in poverty or growing up in a household with one parent in 2002 if the teenage pregnancy rate had remained at 1991 levels (Connolly, 2005). The data shows that 1. 2 million more children would have been born to teenage mothers in the United States (Connolly, 2005). Of those, 460,000 would have been living in poverty and 700,000 would have grown up in a single-parent household (Connolly, 2005).
Not every teenage mother is poor but having a child in your teenage years does increase her chances of living in poverty. These figures highlight the correlation between being a teenager who is unmarried, pregnant, and living in poverty conditions. Teenage mothers often find themselves in a cycle that repeats itself. Many of them have a mother who was also a teenage parent. Living in poverty and in a single-parent home where the mother is the main influence sets up an intergenerational cycle that is very difficult to break.
If the child of the teenager continues to be disadvantaged and does not further her education, her choices for her future may be just as limited as they were for her mother. And if she does not have a father figure role model to look up to while in her formative years, the risks for her being sexually active have now escalated. References About children: The reality of teenage pregnancy. (2008, September 13). Retrieved January 28, 2011, from HighBeam Research: http://www. highbeam. com/doc/1P2-17169352. html Adams, G. A. -H. (2009, Spring).
The costs of public services for teenage mothers post-welfare reform: a ten-state study. Retrieved February 10, 2011, from PubMed: http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/pubmed/19891207 America’s families and living arrangements: 2010 . (2010). Retrieved February 15, 2011, from US Census Bureau: http://www. census. gov/population/www/socdemo/hh-fam/cps2010. html Branch, E. (2006). Growing up disadvantaged: The impact on the likelihood of teenage pregnancy. Retrieved February 1, 2011, from Conference Papers – American Sociological Association: EBSCO host Bruce Ellis, J. B. (2003).
Does father absence place daughters at special risk for early sexual activity and teenage pregnancy? Child Development , 74 (3), 801-821. Connolly, C. (2005, April 14). As teen pregnancy dropped, so did child poverty. Retrieved February 24, 2011, from Washington Post: http://www. washingtonpost. com/ac2/wp-dyn/A51337 Facts on american teens’ sexual and reproductive health. (2011, January). Retrieved February 11, 2011, from www. guttmacher. org: http://www. guttmacher. org/pubs/FB-ATSRH. html Harris, G. (2009, May 13). Out-of-wedlock birthrates are soaring, U. S. Reports.
Retrieved February 23, 2011, from New York Times: http://www. nytimes. com/2009/05/13/health/13mothers. html Joyce A. Martin, M. P. H. ; Brady E. Hamilton, Ph. D. ; Paul D. Sutton Ph. D. ; Stephanie J. Ventura, M. A. ; T. J. Mathews, M. S. ; and Michelle J. K. Osterman M. H. S. (2010, December). National vital statistics report. Retrieved January 28, 2011, from Centers for disease control and prevention: http://www. cdc. gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr59/nvsr59_01. pdf Low-income children in the United States. (2009, November). Retrieved March 1, 2011, from National Center for Children in Poverty: http://www. ccp. org/publications/pdf/text_907. pdf Meade, C. S. (2008). The cycle of teenage motherhood: an ecological approach. Health Psychology , 27 (4), pp. 419-429. Stephens, D. P. (2004). Teenage mothers in the United States. (T. G. Inc. , Ed. ) Retrieved January 31, 2011, from HighBeam Research: http://www. highbeam. com/doc/1G2-3402800401. html Ventura, S. J. (2009, May). Changing patterns of nonmarital childbearing in the United States. Retrieved January 27, 2011, from Center for Disease Control: http://www. cdc. gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db18. pdf