The Pitfalls of being a Teenage Parent
In figures recently released by the UK Government it appears that the rate of teenage pregnancy is falling. Really?
I find this very hard to believe when on Facebook alone the majority of female ‘friends’ of my teenager and ‘friends of friends’ describe themselves as “Somebody Mummy Somebody”. The amount of girls who were in that school year and already have at least one child or are currently pregnant is staggering.
It should be borne in mind that almost 50% of teenage pregnancies end in termination so there are probably more youngsters actually conceiving than we know about.
What does this do to our society?
- Many teenage parents do not finish their education and therefore find it difficult to gain employment to support their child(ren). This places the burden on the welfare state and ultimately on the tax payer.
- The vast majority of teen parents do not stay together and very few teenage fathers keep in contact with their child. This makes it harder to instil family values into the children and hammers the message home that families don’t need fathers. Sadly this isn’t always the case and a lot of studies show that children fare better in families with both parents fully involved in their upbringing. A sad sign of the times was reported in December 2012 in the Telegraph when the 10th most wished for gift on Christmas lists was for a Dad!
- Teenage pregnancy is contributing to the breakdown of traditional family life by being a symptom of the rapidly escalating breakdown of aforementioned family life. Now that may seem a contradiction in terms but if a child (and make no mistake here; they are children!) from a broken down family becomes pregnant and the father plays no role in the upbringing of the baby; that baby then becomes a product of a broken down family. These teen pregnancies can be due to lack of guidance or discipline from a stretched to the limit lone parent or parents who do not have firm moral values. With no positive role model to teach her the value of commitment there is little wonder that these teenagers carry on the tradition of fragmented families.
Public Health Issues
According to the International Journal for Epidemiology: “Teenage pregnancy is a public health, not a clinical, problem.” [sic]
I agree teenage parents are one of the most vulnerable groups in society and that problems such as poor nutrition in pregnancy, low birth weight babies, higher infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and general education should be tackled.
However, I do not agree that it is lack of sex-education that is causing the elevated rate of teenage pregnancy. I believe that a large proportion of these young people are fully aware of and have access to contraceptive methods. In the UK, contraception is free to most young people; including under 16’s, provided they are mature enough to understand the implications. They have full knowledge of how people get pregnant and what to do to prevent it yet they still continue to practise unprotected sex.
These same children also know the health risks and continue to contract Chlamydia, Herpes, Syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases at an alarming rate. Chlamydia in particular affects up to 40% of 15 to 19 year old girls having unprotected sex!
So why are teens engaging in such risky sexual behaviour?
10 reasons why this might be
- The “it’ll never happen to me” mentality
- The knowledge that they will be provided for by the state if they do become pregnant
- Being too intoxicated to remember to use a condom
- Peer pressure about it not being ‘cool’ to use contraception
- Few, if any consequences from parents - most will simply accept the pregnancy without question
- To get pregnant on purpose for emotional need reasons or to get a place to live
- Lack of morals
- The myth that unprotected sex is better
- Teenagers in general like to take risks
What consequences does teenage pregnancy have?
- Loss of freedom
- No social life
- The wrath of parents and other family members
- Social stigma
- The shame being pregnant and unmarried carried with it
- Failure to be able to continue in education
- Being ostracised by people in your neighbourhood
- Shotgun wedding
What is happening to society today?
Nowadays, the picture is quite different. Because teen pregnancy and in general, pregnancy out of wedlock is more socially acceptable; many of the above consequences do not occur.
Morals have relaxed in a lot of families and parents aren’t as shocked by it as they used to be. Many parents willingly give up their time to allow the young mum to go out and socialise just as they did before the birth. Colleges provide crèche facilities to enable the mother to continue in education – although not many do choose to complete their studies.
Housing is provided by local authorities and the welfare system pays housing costs and for the upkeep of the child. In some cases, girls are better off not working and living on state handouts. This is due to change this year (2013) in a massive shake up of the benefits system in the UK when housing benefit will be cut for under 25’s.
Lone parents are already expected to seek work when the youngest child reaches 5 years of age. All in all there aren’t that many negative consequences at this time.
What are the problems associated with some young parents?
Unfortunately, becoming a mother or a father does not bring with it automatic maturity. What must not be forgotten is that these parents are essentially children themselves! As such, they can be expected to behave like children at least for some of the time. Their bodies may be mature enough to cope with pregnancy and birth but they are often not emotionally and financially mature enough to do the job.
This section, more than any other in this article is likely to enrage young parents, who in their own minds think that they are perfectly mature and capable of parenting wisely. They probably will not be able to recognise any of the traits in themselves that I am about to mention.
Some, by no means all teenage parents are at risk of being neglectful or even abusive towards their child because of their immaturity and lack of knowledge about childcare and child development. They may be on a low income and not have sufficient maturity to learn money managing skills which could mean that the child is not fed and reared properly with good quality produce.
They may not have sufficient knowledge of potential health hazards or issues and have no family support network to refer to. They could unknowingly be endangering the child’s life because of this.
There are teen mums and dads who involve themselves in the drink and drugs culture. These people generally have very chaotic lifestyles and have great difficulty being organised. This can result in them not understanding and not being able to provide their child’s need for basic nurturing and a safe environment.
A few immature teenage mothers continue to have children with different fathers even though the children never see the father, he does not contribute to their support and they have no means of supporting those children.
What Happens When the Parents Break Up?
- Often after a breakup one parent uses the child to bring down the other party. Due to their lack of psychological maturity game playing ensues. The father, if unmarried has no rights; the mother knows this and plays upon it.
- A typical scenario: The mother says the father can come and see the child. The father turns up and the mother and child aren’t there. The mother then protests there was an emergency and she had to go out and couldn’t contact the father.
- A week later the mother says she will meet the father in town so he can see the baby. He turns up; she doesn’t. The next time, roles are reversed with the father being the one not to turn up because he sick of her letting him down.
- Phone calls are not answered for days but eventually a breakthrough is made and the mother says the father can come and pick up the baby and take it out. An hour before he is due to be there he gets a call to say he can’t see his child because the mother has seen a picture of him on Facebook (innocently) sitting with a girl. “If you think you’re taking my child anywhere near that fat **** you can forget it!”
- Another attempt is made, a tentative arrangement agreed and when the father phones to confirm, her phone is switched off.
- The mother meets someone else who is also young and immature. He says that the father isn’t welcome and mustn’t come to the house because he’s the ‘daddy’ now. The real daddy goes round and creates a scene involving the police being called. Eventually even the most tenacious father will back off. Sadly, he won’t be the only one to suffer. He probably has at least one parent who would like to see their grandchild but is being prevented from doing so because of the lack of maturity of her son and his ex partner.
- What neither of these ‘childish’ parents can see is that their behaviour is not only hurting the ex-partner. It is hurting other family members and fundamentally the child, who is being deprived of having both parents in its life. If only they could experience hindsight before they begin to behave like this and realise that mature communication, mutual co-operation and shared decisions are the only answer.
What could be done about immature parents having babies?
Not a great deal unfortunately - Unless the government of the day decides it would be appropriate to give all pubescent girls a contraceptive implant until they are emotionally mature enough to be a parent of course! Now there’s an idea...
All that said, there are I'm sure, some excellent and very mature teenagers out there who are doing a great job of parenting their children. I actually know some.
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