Pregnancy before marriage is considered a destructive social ill so the US government has stepped in, determined to curtail this sad phenomenon. The number of births out of wedlock is decreasing gradually - thanks to government and community efforts - but there is still quite a number of teenagers who are getting pregnant without benefit of marriage not only in North America but also in other parts of the world.
The portrayal of pregnancy out of marriage has been dramatic, and when we hear of young women heavy with child with no spouse to help raise the future child, our hearts go out to them. It’s like children nurturing children. It isn’t fair to have a girl barely out of her teens to be saddled with a child that she has to look after for the next 18 years. At least we hope she has the necessary resources and support systems to see her through this stage of her life.
A pregnant teen who is not married also makes one think of the kind of future she will have – how her dreams and career aspirations will have to be delegated to the back burner for a few years until the child starts attending school.
Pregnancy Before Marriage - Government’s Contributions
The American nation is fortunate in that there are provisions in place to help reduce the incidence of pregnancies out of marriage. One such measure is the welfare law of 1996. Some of its provisions include:
- A federal budget of $50 million annually to teach kids abstinence education,
- Measures to ensure that paternity is established and child support payments are made,
- Federal measures requiring all 52 states to initiate action in reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies, with a special emphasis on teen pregnancies.
The 1996 welfare law carries other provisions targeted to reduce pregnancy out of marriage. Governmental measures have met with controversy but the general view is that if we know how to achieve these goals relating to births out of wedlock, then we are doing the best we can to improve the quality of life of children.
A society relies on individual communities to make sure children are allowed to develop mentally and emotionally so that they grow up to be productive citizens. In turn, communities rely on individual families to make sure that children are properly fed, nurtured, schooled and coached about life. Part of that education and coaching must include the avoidance of getting pregnant when not yet married.
In October 2001, an article by Isabel V. Sawhill which was published on the website of the Brookings Institution, Social Policy Section, addressed this issue. The Brookings Institution is a prestigious think tank and is dedicated to addressing the country’s social concerns. Ms Sawhill said, “Almost everyone is in favor of reducing teen pregnancy…teen pregnancy and birthrates have declined during the 1990s, which in turn has contributed to the leveling off of the proportion of all children born to unwed mothers. When Congress reauthorizes the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reform Act in 2002, it should build on this success by providing additional funds for teen pregnancy prevention efforts while maintaining the emphasis on work and child support enforcement.”
That’s quite a tall order coming from a private citizen. Lest we forget, governments have other problems to tackle as well. Reducing pregnancy out of marriage must be an individual responsibility and each family must do its part to protect offspring.
Pregnancy Before Marriage - Teens Explain Why
We’ve heard the same refrain over and over again. It’s not so much a question of wanting a child that teens become pregnant out of marriage. We suspect it has a lot to do with their need for affection which they don’t get at home. By seeking comfort and support elsewhere, there’s always the risk of perceiving affection the wrong way. They think that by engaging in sexual relations with their boyfriends, they’ve got that part of their emotional life under lock and key.
Not quite. Many wake up the morning after to find their intended beloved gone.
Okay, so maybe it’s not a craving for love and affection. Maybe it’s the desire to keep up with things fashionable and “cool.” Take a recent news report on Fox that featured a pregnant 14 year old British girl who said that the latest thing in fashion these days is not the Paris Hilton handbag, but getting “banged up.” This came from a pregnant teenager who says that four of her friends are also expecting. Kizzy Neal – that’s her name – told Fox News that her teenaged friends think babies are very cute little things, but then they are not aware that seen from a larger perspective, they realize, somewhat late, that they’re giving up their entire lives to care for a baby.
It was also reported that in all of Europe, England and Wales have the highest teen pregnancy rates, with the largest growth among girls under 16.
Then you have the lack of control versus too much control. We’re talking about parental control. Maybe teens are feeling a bit suffocated by the well-meaning encroachment into their private lives by their folks at home. They can’t even surf the Net anymore with all the blockers set up by their parents.
“I felt I was wearing a dog collar around my neck all the time. With mom and dad, it was always don’t do this, don’t do that. I didn’t think they had a right to prevent me from being happy and hanging out with my boyfriend. One day it got so bad – the fighting – that I ran away and asked my boyfriend to have sex with me. Just to spite my folks, you know.”
Pregnancy Before Marriage - What Happens to Pregnant Teens?
What happens to teens who are suddenly pregnant?
The profile actually looks rather dismal. Teenagers who get pregnant have a lower chance of completing their secondary education (only 1/3 of them graduate from high school). Between 1% and 2% of teenage mothers finish university by age 30. They are also most likely to go on welfare. About 80% of them are on welfare.
Children born to unwed teenagers have lower birth weights and tend to perform poorly academically. They are also at greater risk of abuse and neglect.
And no wonder the government is concerned and is taking measures to put an end to this sociological problem. Reports show that sons of teenagers have a 13% higher chance of ending up in prison, while daughters of teenagers have a 22% likelihood of becoming pregnant themselves when they reach their teens.
Pregnancy Before Marriage - Breaking Past the Emotional Barrier
Teenagers who suddenly learn they are pregnant are gripped with fear and are confused. Matters become worse when the boyfriend they thought was a real gentleman declares he doesn’t want to have to do anything with her or the child. Oh sure, many of them take responsibility for their actions, but there are guys out there who would rather walk out.
When teenagers are faced with this situation, their first reflex action is to run away, so that their parents need not know about their predicament. This may not be such a wise decision.
A teenager who got pregnant at 15 felt it was the time she needed to talk to her mother the most. Before her pregnancy, she avoided her mother like the plague. Not sure of how her mother would react to the news, she felt anyway that her mother needed to know, so she mustered the courage to finally tell her. To her surprise, her mother just hugged her and said, “we’ll go through this together.”
That teenager is now a happy 32 year old with four children and a beautiful house in Virginia. This is what she said: “After I told my mother I was pregnant, she didn’t explode into anger like I thought she would. Instead, she held me tightly and said we would go through the pregnancy together. I would never trade my family for all the riches in the world. It just made all the difference to me and at that moment, I promised myself I would give my child and myself a bright future.”
A lucky teen, wouldn’t you agree?