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Is teen pregnancy really the problem?

Pregnant teen

Pregnant teen mum

The stereotypical teen mother is often described as an irresponsible secondary school drop-out who has unprotected sex, drinks heavily, takes drugs, is incapable of caring for a child and relies on the government and taxpayers to fund her chosen lifestyle. Furthermore, several reports have been released that claim the children of teen mothers are at a higher risk than other children for poor academic performance, developmental disabilities and behavioural issues, and are more likely to become teenage parents themselves and to serve time in prison. For this reason we frequently consider teenage pregnancy to be a core element of Britain’s socio-economic problems.

However, the socio-economic issues associated with teen pregnancy may not be the cause of society’s problems, but the result of a lack of communal support for teen mothers. Teen pregnancy has always been present in British society, in fact, in the 1950s it was common and socially acceptable for 18 and 19 year olds to give birth. The only difference is that 60 years ago teenage mothers were already married. So is society’s concern with teen pregnancy actually single parenthood? We also often forget that not all teen pregnancies are the result of careless behaviour, because contraception can fail no matter how careful you are and some unfortunate teens are the victims of sexual abuse. Finally, the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy believes teen parents can be good parents as long as they have the support of the community. With communal support teen parents can stay in school, depend less on the government for funding and raise their child with guidance. This suggests the stigma attached to teen pregnancy is the real problem as it isolates teen parents from society and the non-financial benefits it offers.

However, many anti-teen pregnancy campaigners will say such communal support rewards the behaviours that lead to teen pregnancy and thus encourages it. As a result, we find ourselves stuck in a Catch-22 situation. Do we offer pregnant teens social support and guidance so they and their children have better lives and hope this decreases the current socio-economic problems we face? Or do we punish them by withdrawing all forms of support in the hope that such a punishment will deter future teens from engaging in similar behaviours?

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