Misconceptions About Teenaged Mothers

Even as single motherhood has become commonplace in our society, and the stigma against out of wedlock births has disappeared, another prejudice has come to replace it: the bias against teenaged mothers.

Here are a few misconceptions about teenaged mothers:

  1. Teenaged mothers are less educated than other mothers.
  2. Teenaged mothers come from broken homes or are the result of bad parenting.
  3. Teen pregnancies are all unplanned and result in unwanted babies.
  4. Teenaged mothers are welfare recipients.
  5. Teenaged mothers did not have strong father figures.
  6. Teenaged mothers end up having too many children.

And, finally, last but not least:

7. Mature mothers, women who have waited to become mothers until their social position and career are established, make more reliable mothers than teenagers.

Theodosia Burr Alston

Portrait of Theodosia by John Vanderlyn Theodosia married when she was seventeen and gave birth to her only son in the following year. Credit: Wikipedia
Portrait of Theodosia by John Vanderlyn Theodosia married when she was seventeen and gave birth to her only son in the following year. Credit: Wikipedia

While some teen-aged mothers fit the negative stereotype, these descriptions are not all accurate for most teenaged mothers, and there certainly are, and have been, teenaged mothers in America about whom none of these assumptions are true.

I would like to focus on two historical figures from the American past to illustrate my points. These are both women I admire very much, and each of them became a mother when she was a teenager.

1. Many teenaged mothers are quite well educated

Theodosia Burr Alston was the daughter of Aaron Burr. She was educated at home by her father and was able to write fluently in Greek and Latin, as well as French and English. Aaron Burr was ahead of his time in believing that a young woman should be given the opportunity to receive the same education as a man.

When Theodosia was seventeen years old, and her father was about to become Vice President under Thomas Jefferson, (both had received the same number of votes in the electoral college while running for president), Theodosia married Joseph Alston, the governor of South Carolina. They honeymooned at Niagra Falls, the first American couple ever to do so. Their son, Aaron Burr Alston ("Gampy" for short), was born in the following year.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls married Almanzo Wilder when she was eighteen. She gave birth to Rose Wilder Lane when she was nineteen Credit: Wikipedia
Laura Ingalls married Almanzo Wilder when she was eighteen. She gave birth to Rose Wilder Lane when she was nineteen Credit: Wikipedia

Some might argue that Theodosia came from a privileged background and was not a self-made woman. Many parents, when trying to deter their children from following the examples of celebrities, point out to them that what a rich and famous person may do is not acceptable in a person from a more humble background.

My second example lays to rest the notion that successful teen pregnancy is something open only to the privileged class.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was the daughter of a hard working frontier family. While growing up, Laura had no luxuries. Everything the family used, they had to hunt, fish, catch, build, grow and make. Except for sugar and coffee and some kinds of flour, almost all their food staples were home grown. Except for gingham cloth which they did purchase, almost all their clothes were home made. They built their own houses, cured their own meat, hunted their own venison and made their own butter and cheese.

Nevertheless, in this frontier home, there was also time for music, reading and book learning.

Charles Ingalls, Laura's father, played the violin. On cold winter days when nothing else could be accomplished out of doors, the family sang together, told stories, read the Bible and studied other important literary and historical works.

Much of Laura's education was acquired at home, although she did attend public school in DeSmet, when she was able. At the age of fifteen, Laura earned a teaching certificate and began to teach in one room school houses, where some of her pupils were older, bigger and rougher than she was. When she was eighteen years old, Laura married Almanzo Wilder and the couple began to homestead together. Laura's daughter, Rose, was born when she was nineteen.

2. Many teenaged mothers come from good homes

Both Theodosia Burr Alston and Laura Ingalls Wilder came from loving homes where their parents offered an appropriate mix of affection and discipline. Aaron Burr doted on his only daughter, but he did not hesitate to correct her when she made a mistake, whether it was a question of Latin grammar or appropriate decorum when acting as hostess to guests of state in their home. Theodosia's mother died when she was only a child, and Aaron Burr did not remarry while Theodosia was growing up. He took his role as a father very seriously.

Charles and Carolyn Ingalls were loving parents who did not hesitate to correct their children if they thought their behavior was inappropriate. Despite a strict upbringing, Laura was given the freedom to go out into the world at fifteen and earn a living. Laura was raised to be responsible and self reliant, and her parents trusted her judgments. She met her future husband during the period when she was teaching, and her parents did not interfere with the courtship.

3. Many Teen Pregnancies are Planned, and Most Babies Born to Teen Mothers are Wanted

I don't know that the teen pregnancies of Theodosia Burr Alston and Laura Ingalls Wilder were planned, but I'm pretty sure that they were not unexpected or unwelcome. In those days, couples didn't work hard tracking ovulation charts or wearing unusual underwear in order to ensure fertility. They did not know exactly when a pregnancy would occur, but it was common knowledge that pregnancy usually followed naturally within about a year of getting married. People who married were people prepared to start a family.

When we hear of teen pregnancy today, the prevailing assumption is that young women are interested in becoming sexually active, but have no desire to have children. When a pregnancy occurs, people think, it must be the result of carelessness. No teenager would actually want to get pregnant.

I can tell you from introspection that this is not necessarily true.

When I was nineteen, I had just graduated from college with a B.A. in foreign languages, and I was about to start law school. My grandmother took me on a special trip to Paris as a treat. In a park, we came across a group of little children. At the sight of those children, my heart almost overflowed with feeling, and I was overwhelmed with the desire to have a baby. It was a really strong emotion, and it never really went away. Not ever.

When I told my parents about it, they didn't take my desire to have a baby seriously. They thought I was too young, and I should just concentrate on my studies. I didn't agree with them, but I did as they said. My parents had nothing to worry about. I didn't even have a boyfriend.

However, a friend of mine, who was a year older, did have a boyfriend. She married at nineteen and had a baby seven months later -- a baby that was not premature. She had been the valedictorian of her high school class and was enrolled in college at the time, though still living at home. She was smart, well educated and came from a loving home. My parents were sure that she had simply gotten carried away with pre-marital sex. My view was different. I thought then, and still think now, that the only people who weren't planning that pregnancy were her parents.

My friend is still married to the same man. They have four children. The eldest of those children married before my daughter was born.

I had to defer my dream of becoming a mother for many years. When my daughter was born I was thirty-eight. I turned thirty-nine two weeks later.

I am very lucky to have my daughter. I just don't think the twenty year wait was absolutely necessary.

5. Teenaged mothers often have strong father figures in their lives

BothTheodosia Burr Alston and Laura Ingalls Wilder had strong fathers who were very much involved in their lives when they were growing up. Charles Ingalls became a good father-in-law to Almanzo, and Aaron Burr doted on Gampy.

My friend, the valedictorian who married at nineteen, also had a loving and involved father. Her parents had a good marriage and are still together.

Choosing to become a parent early doesn't necessarily indicate a girl has had trouble with either parent. Sometimes it just means that her parents set a good example, and she wants to follow in their footsteps.

Even though I didn't get to realize my dream to be a young mother, I, too, was motivated by my parents' good example. They were both great parents, and I couldn't wait to get started down that path, myself.

6. Teenaged mothers can be financially self-sufficient and do not necessarily constitute a burden on the public

Theodosia Burr Alston was married to a wealthy plantation owner who was also the governor of South Carolina. She was clearly not on the dole. Her father had a plan to make her Empress of Mexico, but that's a different story.

Laura and Almanzo were hard-working, self-sufficient homesteaders. They went through many hard times, but they were good parents, and they always provided their daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, with what she needed when she was growing up.

Despite managing to save money for their retirement, the Wilders found themselves in financial difficulty later in life, due to the stock market crash of 1929. It was their daughter Rose who supported them and helped them get through this rough time. It was also Rose, a journalist and writer, who helped Laura to edit and then publish her Little House series of books. If not for Rose, the daughter Laura gave birth to when she was only nineteen, none of us would ever have heard of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

7. Women who give birth to their first child when they are teens do not necessarily end up having more children

I am concerned about overpopulation, and I have noticed that some of the hubpages dealing with this issue talk about how the more education a woman has, the more likely she is to use contraception to prevent pregnancy while she pursues a career. Education for women is the best way to lower birth rates, the argument goes, and the better educated a women is, the more she will postpone motherhood. The unstated implication is that the later motherhood is postponed, the fewer children women will manage to have, due to age-related fertility issues.

In fact, a woman who has an early pregnancy will not necessarily end up having more children. Theodosia never had another child after Gampy. When her son died in childhood of malaria, she was inconsolable. Sick herself, she boarded a ship to go visit her father in New York. The ship was lost at sea, and Theodosia was never heard from again. Her line died with her.

Laura Ingalls Wilder did give birth to another child after Rose, but he died in infancy. Rose was her only grown child. Rose left no children after her, so I think that we can safely say that Laura and Almanzo, despite their early union, are not guilty of overpopulating the planet.

Wendy Wasserstein gave birth to Lucy Jane when she was 48 years old and died when she was 55....               Photo Credit: New York Times
Wendy Wasserstein gave birth to Lucy Jane when she was 48 years old and died when she was 55.... Photo Credit: New York Times

7. Young mothers are more likely to survive long enough to see their children to adulthood and self-sufficiency

It can be argued that if people are going to make responsible choices about bringing children into the world, it is better for a woman to have her children early rather than late. Later pregnancies are more likely to result in birth defects, underweight babies, and pre-term delivery.

Despite the major advances in fertility treatments in recent years, waiting too late to become a mother puts both the child and the mother at great risk.

A case in point is the playwright Wendy Wasserstein, who gave birth to her daughter Lucy Jane when she was forty-eight years old. Lucy Jane was extremely premature, despite the drugs that Wendy had been given to keep her from going into labor too early. For a while it was touch and go for the baby, who was in intensive care. Nobody can dispute Wendy's dedication as a mother, or the fact that her involvement helped Lucy Jane to thrive and overcome her problems. Eventually, Wendy was able to take Lucy Jane home, a beautiful, healthy baby. And then, less than seven years later, Wendy Wassersteinn died of lymphoma, a disease she probably succumbed to in part due to the drugs she was given in order to allow Lucy Jane to come into the world.

When I heard this story, it hit me pretty hard. I was thirty-eight when my daughter was born, and Lucy Jane and my daughter are of similar ages.

What would happen to Sword and Bow if I died unexpectledly?

After Wendy Wasserstein died, there were some hateful commentaries on the net, suggesting that this had happened because Wendy was "selfish". The commentators seemed to equate choosing to be a single mother with choosing to be single. There was the implication that if Wendy Wasserstein had wanted to, she could have married someone earlier and had a baby the normal way. Her deferral of parenthood, it was suggested, came from an unwillingness to compromise over the choice of a mate.

However, when Laura Ingalls married Almanzo Wilder, she wasn't compromising. She was in love, and the life they made together, despite all its trials, was a dream come true.

The problem with Wendy Wasserstein's choice to become a mother when she did was not that she was single. It was not that she wanted to be happy. The problem was that she was too old. At that age, she should have been a grandmother. Despite her best efforts, Wendy wasn't able to be there for Lucy Jane.

Governor Sarah Palin is the mother of five children, including pregnant teen Bristol and Trig, an infant with Down's Syndrome       Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Governor Sarah Palin is the mother of five children, including pregnant teen Bristol and Trig, an infant with Down's Syndrome Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Special Needs Child and the Older Parent

Lucy Jane Wasserstein is probably going to be just fine. She is living with her uncle and his family, and they will see to it that all her needs are met until she is ready to take responsibility for herself.

If I die tomorrow, my family will do the same for my daughter. Being orphaned is not good, but children survive such an experience, and even if there is no father, there is usually a family member who will look out for the child until the child is able to stand on its own as a self-sufficient adult.

The case of special needs children, however, is quite different. I know. Bow is my special needs child, and he will need help long after I am gone. Bow is a chimpanzee, but there are humans who face the same problem.

In the news recently there has been a lot about Sarah Palin, the current governor of Alaska, and McCain's choice of a running mate.

Some of the criticism has been centered on the reproductive choices that Sarah Palin has made, and about the choices of her teenaged daughter, Bristol.

Two facts bother the critics:

(1) Palin's daughter Bristol is seventeen years old and five months pregnant. She and the father of her child plan to marry after the baby is born.

(2) Palin's infant son Trig was born with Down's Syndrome. She was aware of the condition before he was born and chose not to have an abortion.

As I understand it, Bristol's unborn baby is healthy and without any special disabilities.

Of the two issues, the first seems entirely unproblematic. What Bristol and her boyfriend are doing is not so different from what teenagers throughout history have done when starting a family. Bristol Palin is not significantly different from Theodosia Burr Alston or Laura Ingalls Wilder. Whether the young parents marry before the birth, after the birth or during the birth makes no difference. Even if they don't marry at all, there is little danger that the child Bristol is carrying will be abandoned, malnourished or in any way mistreated. The parents are taking responsibility for the child, and there is no danger that the burden of caring for this baby will ever fall on the public.

The same cannot be said about Trig. In all likelihood, despite the best intentions of the Palins, Trig will need support and care long after his parents are gone.

Even though Sarah Palin is healthy and though she may have a long, productive life ahead of her, like Wendy Wasserstein with Lucy Jane, she will probably leave her youngest child before he is ready to support himself. This is because the lifespan of Down's Syndrome children has increased through medical intervention. In previous centuries, a Down's Syndrome child often did not survive to adulthood. Therefore, the burden of caring for such children, while it may have been heavy, could still be carried by parents during their lifetime.

Sarah Palin already had four healthy children when Trig was conceived. Given her policy against abortion, it seems odd that she didn't consider using ordinary contraception to prevent a fifth pregnancy this late in her life.

Contraception is less controversial than abortion, and it is a good tool for sexually active people to use, whether they are married or not, to avoid unwanted or problematic pregnancies. While I am less concerned that Bristol didn't choose to use contraceptives, I am far more concerned about Sarah Palin, since as an older mother, she must have known the odds for a Down's Syndrome baby in her case were higher.

The Burden of a Parent's Choice

I support the right to choose, including Sarah Palin's choice to maintain her pregnancy and give birth to her son. My concerns about Trig do not stem from a prejudice against people who look different, act different, or have a different number of chromosomes from me. All those things are true of Bow, and I am as dedicated to him as Sarah Palin is to her special needs child.

The legitimate public concern about every Down's Syndrome baby is: who will care for it when it is grown and the parents are no longer able? A perfectly acceptable question to ask Governor Palin is this: "What measures have you taken to ensure that when you are gone, other people and their children do not end up having to earn money, against their will and without their consent, in order to support your child?"

That was always the real issue behind the stigma attached to illegitimacy. It is the hidden reason that people still frown on teen pregnancies. It isn't that anybody really cares about anybody else's reproductive or sexual activity. What people want to know is: who will support this child?

Everybody has the right to have children. Nobody has the right to have them at somebody else's expense.

Pregnant Teens and You

If your teenaged daughter told you she was pregnant, what would you do?

  • I would tell her to go through with the pregnancy and then put the child up for adoption.
  • I would force her to get married right away.
  • I would ask her what she wanted to do, and I would support her decision, whatever it was.
  • I would force her to get an abortion.
  • I would ask her to give birth to the child, and then I would adopt it
  • Other.
See results without voting

Comments 42 comments

gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 8 years ago from Oklahoma

Thanks for publishing this hub, I agree that not all teenage mothers are a burden on society.


Anna Marie Bowman profile image

Anna Marie Bowman 8 years ago from Florida

I agreed with a lot of what you had to say. I did not, however, agree with your opinion on Sarah Palin's son, Trig, being a burden on the government, and that she should have used protection to avoid a pregnancy so late in life. While it is true that great advancements have been made in lengthening the life span of children born with Down's Syndrome, it is also true that many more people struggling with Down's Syndrome are leading fairly self sufficient lives, holding down jobs, living in their own homes, or in communities, similar to communities for retired people, that offer a minimal amount of assistance where it is needed. There are varying degrees of disablilty when it comes to Down's Syndrome. I applaud Sarah Palin for her courage, and for sticking to her convictions.


allshookup profile image

allshookup 8 years ago from The South, United States

I agree also. Good hub. I love how you pointed out so many prejudices against young mothers. Well done. Teenage pregnancy happens in all races and all walks of life. We should be supporting them, not putting them down as seen so much in the last few days on such a public platform. I feel it it were those people's daughter, they would be seeing things in a different light. I can't imgaine having to deal with this issue at such a young age and in the public eye like this. I admire her for keeping the baby and going through all of this for her/him. But, I disagree with the 2 facts that you named being labeled 'bother.' They are the ones making the decision to marry and care for the child. Their parents are having to think this through now and see how they feel about it before they sign for them to get married. They are not running off and getting married. So, I feel they are taking time now to consider if this is what they should be doing. I'm glad they are thinking it through before taking such a commitment. And I disagree strongly about the fact that you implied that Sarah should have had an abortion when she found out Trig was going to be a 'special' child. He is that way for a reason that God knows. She said herself that he is a blessing in her life. How many blessings like Trig have been murdered because the mother didn't want a perfect child. I admire her very much for keeping him. Since I am not in her shoes, I do not know if she used protection or not when having sex with her husband. That, again, is their business. He has 4 siblings older than he is and I'm sure will help with him. I have worked with Down's children/adults, and I cannot see how anyone would want to kill them. In your poll, I answered 'Other' because you did not put an acceptable answer on there for me. I would NEVER and I repeat NEVER ask my daughter to kill her baby for the reason of birth control. That option would never have been brought up in this instance. Bristol chose to have sex and this baby is the result. She should take responsibility, which she is. I would have my daughter do the same. Raise the baby. If they wanted to marry, we would consider that with alot of prayerful consideration, but she would have the baby, married or not. This child is not a mistake. S/he is a baby and should be treated as one. You did a good job showing that teenage pregnancy happens in different walks of life. Which I agree with. But the 'bother' list, I just can't agree with. Like I said, if it were the critics daughter pregnant, they would be looking at this differently, I'm sure. Or at least they should.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Gwendymom, thanks for the support.

Anna Marie, thanks for the input. In fact, I don't think there's that much that we disagree on. I didn't say that Trig will necessarily ever be a burden on others. It could be that he will become one of the self-sufficient success stories concerning Down's Syndrome children. What I said was that it's a legitimate question to ask Governor Palin, considering her public position.

Whether Trig becomes a burden for others to carry doesn't just depend on him, his abilities or his upbringing. It also depends on the laws in place at the time when he is an adult. As a candidate for national office, Sarah Palin has an opportunity to help shape those laws. This is why we should find out where she stands when it comes to public assistance to people with disabilities.

Allshookup, thanks for the support. I think every experience always seems a little different when it happens close to home. Teen mothers who act as responsible parents are not that rare.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Allshookup, I don't think I implied Sarah Palin should have had an abortion. What I said was that because she knew ahead of time that an abortion was out of the question for her, then she needed to take extra care to make sure she didn't run the risk of a problem with the ovum. An ovum isn't considered a person even by pro-lifers. That's why, for someone with those convictions, the point of taking responsibility has to be earlier, before the point of no return, when the ovum turns into an embryo.

I support a woman's right to choose to carry a pregnancy to term no matter what. I also believe that all parents are responsible for supporting their own children.


allshookup profile image

allshookup 8 years ago from The South, United States

I'm sorry if i misunderstood what you meant. That's just how it came across to me. I am pro-life and I believe that a baby is a baby at the second of conception. No matter what name pro-choice people give it. It's like they call it an embryo or other names to make it not sound like a baby so it will be easier to murder them so the mother doesn't have to feel as bad about murdering her child. But for me and all the pro-life people I know, no matter what name it is given, at the moment of conception, it is a baby and it has a soul. Again, I'm sorry if I misunderstood what you meant.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Allshookup, that's okay. I'm sorry if I didn't make it more clear. Once a pregnancy is underway, nobody can or should tell the mother to terminate it. I was just saying that older mothers need to be more careful before a baby is conceived.

Of course, it's none of our business what married people do in the privacy of their bedrooms. The only time it becomes any of our business is if we're told we have to pay for it.


Lela Davidson profile image

Lela Davidson 8 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

Interesting research and personal observation. Great Hub. If you get a chance, come to the OWL event at the FPL this Saturday!http://www.faylib.org/events/press_releases.asp?an... will be speaking on online writing.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Lela, thanks for the input!

I tried to follow the link for the event on Saturday, but I got this message:

 

File ozark-writers08I does not exist! 

Is there another way to get there?


Maria Reza 7 years ago

Hi,

I am so glad that you do not look down at young mothers. I feel that all those misconceptions are so true. I am a young mom at age of 16. I was blessed with so many great people in my life. I think instead of society looking down at all young moms, there should be education on being a great role model. All we need are people willing to invest a little time. I am not saying it is okay to be a young mom, but I tell you one thing. I took advantage of all the advise given to me. My husband of 14yrs is great support. Marriage is hard but worth fighting for. Being a young mom I matured at a very young age. I did not feel sorry for myself, I think people did that for me. I own my own business. I was open to oppurtunities. One thing that young moms suffer from is low self esteem. All they need is positive guidance!! All your info helps!!!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Maria Reza, thanks for commenting and sharing your experience. It sounds as if everything turned out very well for you! Sometimes shouldering responsibility at a young age is a positive thing.


M0MMA09 profile image

M0MMA09 7 years ago from Northern Virginia

What a great hub! Thank you for guiding me to this (I love the detail you went into.) :]


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Momma09, thanks!


vrajavala profile image

vrajavala 6 years ago from Port St. Lucie

good article, very informative. One thing I do disagree with is when you said "Nobody has the right to have children at someone else's expense." Seems you could have thought it through a little deeper.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Vrajavala, thanks for your comment. I think children are wonderful, and I am very grateful for mine, but it would not be right to expect others to pay for my happiness. So it is for all of us. What would have been a deeper way to think of it?


R.G. San Ramon 6 years ago

#7 is simply the best! That's the reason why I got pregnant early. I want to see my child grow and have her children of her own before I die. Yes I know that I cannot control destiny entirely, but I'll have more chance with this. And, I get to be "free" from parental roles earlier than usual. :P


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

R.G. San Ramon, thanks for your input! It sounds as if you have made a wise and well-considered decision to have a child earlier rather than later. There is a time for every thing in life, and it is good to choose the time that is best for us and our children.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

Great Hub! Well discussed and laid and great title too!

My great grandparent had "children" very young - the stories are interesting and I thank God every day that the babies were not aborted or I would not be here. I used to be a "pro-choice" person but as I age, I now know the miracle of birth. Whatever the age, birth is a gift directly from God. In our society we emotionally hang teenagers for having children.

Vrajavala makes an important point - the expense of someone else - hmmmm.

The value of life needs a different paradigm. I want to keep my money but if an Einstein is not walking this planet because of the expense, we as humanity have paid a larger price.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

GmaGoldie, thanks! I think that whether one is pro-choice or pro-life, the best thing we can do for young mothers is to respect their right to choose to be mothers, and not to pre-judge their ability to provide for their children. Most women don't want an abortion. Those who get one are usually giving in to social pressure.


FirstStepsFitness profile image

FirstStepsFitness 5 years ago

Excellent Hub ! Every woman has a right to her choice , it is not up to society to control or condemn her choice for it is her personal choice ! Every teen should be given the 3 choices to delve into to make as an informed decision as possible for she will have to live with the outcome .


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

FirstStepsFitness, thanks. I agree. Every woman has a right to make her own choice. It is not up to society to condemn her.


tlpoague profile image

tlpoague 5 years ago from USA

Very informative hub...Thanks! I am one of those people that chose to have children while being a teenager. I was married while still a senior in high school and had my son by the end of my senior year. I received lots of ridicule and criticism for my choice. I had my daughter 2 months after I turned 20. I will admit that having two children so close together and while I was so young was hard. I have no regrets for my decision. I will be married 20 years this year. My choice was due to my aunt waiting till she had a child at the age of 40. I have a cousin six months younger than me that waited till we were 30 before she had her children. She told me one day, after an apology for comments made when I had my children, that she could understand now why I had my children so young. I never had the health issues that she had with herself and her children. My children, thankfully, were healthy when they were born. For myself, I have seen the downfalls of teenagers getting pregnant by mistake. I have seen some teens get pregnant to make their parents angry, and some that had decided they wanted children at a young age. I come from a long line of women on my mother’s side whom all had children at young ages. The youngest was my great grandmother who had her first at 15. I think it was wonderful that you took the time to write a hub as powerful as this about the stereotype that young teens have when having children. As for my children, both of them want to wait till they are a little older before settling down. Thanks again and great hub!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

tlpoague, thank you for sharing your story and the reasons for making your decision. Were there problems with your aunt's child that she had when she was forty? This is an unusual motivation for a young woman to choose to have children early, but it makes a lot of sense. A lot of women of my generation were encouraged to wait, and I think some did not realize the risks of waiting.

Congratulations on your twentieth wedding anniversary! It's good to know that early marriages can still be successful in this day and age.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK

Hi Aya, like you, I had my babies in my late 30s. I didn't plan it that way, it was just the way things worked out for me. I'm one one of a family of 6, and 3 out of those 6 began their families in their teens. It's been interesting to see how my nephews and nieces have turned out. I don't know whether there is an optimum age for having children. Every individual is different, and will cope with the prevailing circumstances in their own individual way.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Amanda, I agree. Every individual is different, and what is right for one person may be wrong for someone else. Women can be successful mothers at nineteen, at twenty-nine and at thirty-nine and beyond. We just have to stop pressuring everyone to conform to a single acceptable pattern.


Exmoor 5 years ago

Good article. It was very informative and helped with understanding many concepts and myths. I don't agree with your stand on abortion and contraception and Sarah Palin's son being a burden on the government though. It depends on the severity of the Down's Syndrome child too. I applaud Palin for going through with it. Down's children might be a lot of work, but they can be a real joy to be around, provided you have the right attitude. :)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Exmoor, thanks for your comment. I didn't say that I thought Sarah Palin's youngest child was necessarily going to be a burden on the government. What I said was that while she was a candidate for public office, asking Palin what measures she was taking to make sure that her son would never be a burden to others was a legitimate question, considering the sorts of public funding that are currently in place to support disabled persons. Asking about her daughter's personal life, including her daughter's private reproductive choices, was not.


mcleodgi profile image

mcleodgi 4 years ago

New and fresh perspectives are always appreciated. The reasons why you want to have a child is also very important. My fiance's mother had him at the age of 26 and has never married (his father was already married with three other children). She had been trying to get pregnant for a year by then. She came from a rather abusive background and simply made the mistake of believing that having a child would guarantee having someone who would love her back. I can tell you right now that I think this is one of the worst reasons to have a child and she and my fiancé have had struggles like you wouldn't believe.

If on the other hand, he hadn't been born (what's strange is that he also wouldn't have been if c-sections hadn't been invented by 1980's), I would probably hardly know what it's like to have someone love me for who I truly am. It's one of the world's strangest feelings.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The Ozarks Author

MCLeodgi, thanks for sharing this unusual set of circumstances and the different perspective on it all.

I understand what you are saying about your fiance's mother. But I also wonder: if you are not having a baby because you want the baby very much, then why have it? It's almost paradoxical to think being unplanned for or unwanted makes for a better start in life.

Are you saying that your fiancé doesn't love his mother? If so, surely it has to do with something she has done to him, and is not necessarily the result of wanting a baby so much that she was willing to have him alone.

There are a lot of social factors involved in finding and keeping a mate. Sometimes people who have social disabilities choose to have a child alone, because they cannot manage the complex social machinations necessary to keep a relationship afloat. It then may also transpire that they are not as good at parenting as other people, for the same reasons. But do you really want to doom social outcasts to a life of complete isolation? Are you saying that a woman who can't get and keep a man should also forget about raising a child?

I like how you express gratitude for the fact that your fiancé was born. Maybe if you express this gratitude to his mother, she will feel better in her loneliness and isolation. If she is trying to hold on too tight, this might help her to let go and enjoy a better relationship with both you and her son.


paxwill profile image

paxwill 4 years ago from France

What a thoughtful and well-reasoned hub. Too bad shows like Teen Mom and the Maury Show only seek out the trashiest people who happen to have children as teenagers.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Paxwill. I think that people are beginning to see past some of the prejudices against young mothers that such shows tend to enshrine.


Julie 4 years ago

While the article makes some interesting points, I think there is too much emphasis on people's children being the business of others. For example, Sarah Palin's child was born with a known disadvantage and probably will need support for his entire life, and may survive his mother. This article seems to imply that this is a concern of ours, and Sarah Palin should have done something to prevent this. The glaring error of this is that, while most babies are born perfectly healthy, they navigate an entire lifetime. In the course of this, they will at times be more helpful than not to their fellow man, and at other times will need a hand. Some, of course, seem to devolve into perpetual neediness even though they were "perfect" at birth. Also, this line of talk reduces human beings to the value of their material contribution and ignores the unquantifiable value of the deep bonds between humans even if an outsider might see more "take" than "give". I imagine that Trig Palin's siblings and extended family will be happy to pitch in for him later as they apparently do now, and no one should be judged for welcoming a child.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Julie, you misunderstand my point about Trig Palin. I absolutely agree that the abilities and disabilities and future contributions of our children are nobody's business but our own. But what goes along with that is that we, and only we, should be responsible for providing for our children, so long as they remain in a dependent state. If there were no welfare -- and there shouldn't be any -- then the fact that Trig has a disability would be the exclusive business of his parents. Because there _is_ welfare, it becomes everybody's possible future burden.


Angelo 3 years ago

That was an unreliable hub, you only spoke of 3 examples to support your claim and two of which were from a time when becoming a parent while still in teenage years was the norm. The truth is teen pregnancy ruins peoples lives and is a huge problem in this country. Usually it is wrong and irresponsible to have a child when you are still growing up yourself. it is unfair to the child to have a mother who still isn't even past high school to look up to. Of course there probably are those rare occasions like your friend when everything works out great but in reality it usually tears peoples lives apart. You should have our own future in place before you worry about someone else's anything else is unfair to the child


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 3 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Angelo, the social norms may have changed, but women's bodies and souls have not. It was designed to work this way that when a woman is ready to experience love, she is ready to have a baby; if something needs to be done to prevent suffering from social stigmatization, it would be to have a society that conforms better to the needs of mothers and children.

Many women do put off child-bearing these days because of the social pressure to do so. They face infertility, reduced fertility and is some cases a lifetime of caring for children who are genetically or otherwise damaged due to the lateness in the mother's life of their conception. Meanwhile, a majority of healthy children born are to younger and unmarried women. Instead of blaming those women for following nature's plan, wouldn't it be better to make our society more accepting of what works in human reproduction?


Angelo 3 years ago

Now I don't hate young mothers who have a child but i do think that we should try to prevent it from happening. I don't look down upon people who have a child when they are young so don't misunderstand my point. I just think it's wrong that it seems like you are trying to encourage people to have children at a younger age. Also that's an outrageous claim about how there should be no well fare in this country. Making everyone in the world strictly independent is a horrible thing t do in this country. It would tear down community and make it so that people who really need it have to suffer. Didn't anyone teach about sharing, sure there are always the few who abuse it but it is still a necessary program to have in this country. The government needs to care for all people so we can try to avoid them ending up homeless or broke. How would you like it if your job made some budget cuts which ended up in you getting fired so that those on top can stay rich and there was no well fare to help you. Most of the claims you have made were ignorant and wrong. Again you did not give any good evidence to support your claims you just took all of them from observing three or four people and only one or two of them I would consider liable. I am pro-choice but i don't necessarily think that teens should get aborted, i think it should be a carefully thought out decision which it almost always is. Also saying that women should have children when there younger because they won't have health problems isn't that good of a point when you look at all of the bad that outweighs it. Teens are still becoming adults them selves and to deliberately bring a child into this world when they are still children themselves is wrong. Also I think 26 years or around that age is a good time to have a baby to me, you are done with most your studies and you won't deprive the child of any attention because you don't have time.


Angelo 3 years ago

Yes women are able to have children at a young age but that doesn't mean they are mentally or emotionally ready to. As a teenager women are still doing studies and being supported by their parents and are not yet ready to make such a huge choice. Until the age of 25 are brains are prone to taking huge risks because the part of our brain that throughly weighs consequences is not yet developed. A child needs a mother who will help stop them from making really dumb choices not one that still make them herself. I do believe as well that teen mothers should get as much help as possible after the child is born and all the support from those around her as she can. Also there have been girls who got there first period at the age of 9, is that a good age to have a baby to you too.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 3 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Having a baby -- or even merging your life with another person -- is a huge risk, Angelo. The older we get, the less likely we are to take those huge, life risking leaps. We become risk averse. Taking too many risks can end in death -- but not taking enough risks can end in not reproducing oneself. It makes sense that people tend to fall in love earlier in life, because falling in love is a huge risk. It was designed that way.

Are you sure that all girls (or boys) need to study for so many years? What are they learning? Are they reading Greek and Latin classics in the original, the way Theodosia Burr did before her marriage? Or are they just wasting their time in schools that teach nothing? Is it really necessary for girls to be a drain on their parents well until their mid-twenties? Couldn't they become self-supporting -- or married -- before then?

How early a girl gets her period is related to the ethnic group from which she derives. Historically, girls from ethnic groups that mature earlier came from cultures that allowed for marriage earlier.


babynology profile image

babynology 3 years ago from New York

Congratulation on maintaining a great hub. And a lot interesting subject. My hub is about baby names and baby names meaning - All suggestion baby naming.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 3 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, babynology.


jodie 2 years ago

Your information about Laura Ingalls Wilder is really not very accurate. Her father did "interfere" in her courtship, and greatly disapproved of the age difference between her and her future husband. He made them wait until she turned 18 to marry. She did indeed have her first child at 19. While not supervising her child when she was about 3, the child managed to burn down the house- this was right after Laura had her second child, who died.

Did the kid die because she was young? Probably not, it was a common occurrence of the time- but interesting that you would fail to mention it. Also, Rose, the child that lived (and who burned down the house) reportedly grew up to be a seriously depressed and unhappy woman, who blamed her unhappiness on her childhood of poverty and her relationship with her mother. Rose also made references to her mother not being a "grown-up" while Rose was a child, and this greatly distressed Rose.

Read "Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder" rather than Wikipedia for a slightly more factual accounting of her life.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 2 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jodie, I did not mention the baby boy who died who was the son of Laura Ingalls Wilder, because it was not relevant. Infant mortality in general was common in those days and did not imply neglect. Every single baby boy that Laura's mother, Caroline, gave birth to also died in early infancy. Rose Wilder also gave birth to a baby boy who died. It seems that in that family, only baby girls survived, possibly due to a genetic anomaly that was sex-based. I am sure they wanted those baby boys to live -- boys were highly valued on a farm -- and did their best to help them survive. Not every tragedy can be blamed on the youth of the parents.

As for the fire being Rose's fault, I don't think we know that for sure. I am a Libertarian, and I have read some of the works of Rose Wilder Lane and biographies about her. My information is not all from the Wikipedia . I am also aware that people have been scrutinizing the relationship between Rose Wilder Lane and Laura Ingalls Wilder and their collaboration on the Little House books.

The fact that childhood was difficult in those days and not every child survived is part of the background to that period. Not supervising children every moment of the day was the norm, rather than the exception. Nobody was guaranteed a happy childhood then, nor are they now, with all the technology and public assistance that we have in the present day.

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