Young, Poor and Pregnant

Why Your Teenaged Girls Get Pregnant

I work with a lot of young teenage girls and they all have a few things in common, including curiosity, misinformation about and pressure to have sex. What I hear a lot in the inner-city school I work at is that “everyone is doing it”, so the pressure to be part of the overall sexual culture becomes very important, at times, more important than the girls own autonomy. Most of these girls are clueless about sex and birth control. They are too afraid to let their parents know that they are sexually active, would die of embarrassment if a condom was found in their purse and would be too ashamed and scared to ask the guy they are having sex with, to put on a condom, if he doesn’t automatically do it. So instead, they open themselves up in more ways than one to everything that comes with precocious sex including sexually transmitted disease and psychological impairment.

Many get pregnant out of simple ignorance, but most get pregnant for more complex and often subconscious reasons. In her book, Young, Poor and Pregnant Judith Musick goes into great details about the psychology of teenage motherhood and why young girls decide to engage in sex, get pregnant and have babies. These girls usually get pregnant because of the lack of some other need. From my personal experience, six out of about forty young women I worked with last school year got pregnant for these reasons:

  • “My mom has been in prison all my life. I’ve never really had a mother. I can be a better mom than she was.” –“Luz”, 15, 10th grade
  • “My mom and I don’t get along. I think me being pregnant and having her grand daughter will bring us closer.” –“Jessica”, 17, 10th grade
  • “I have no idea what I want to do in my life. I’m failing school. I might as well have a baby and marry my boyfriend.” –“Rosaria”, 15, 10th grade
  • “Having a baby will give me someone who will always love and want me.” –“Keyana”, 17, 11th grade
  • “My boyfriend has a baby with another girl. If we have a baby together then I won’t have to worry about him leaving me for his first baby’s momma.” –“Brianna”, 15, 9th grade.
  • “My boyfriend and I have been fighting a lot. I think having a baby will bring us closer together.” –“Laura”, 18, 11th grade.

Only one of these young ladies came back to school after giving birth to their children. The other five dropped out. It’s hard for a young mother to continue her education after having a child, especially with a lack of support. The one girl that did come back  has a lot of support from her family and her baby’s father.

Why African American and Hispanic Teenage Girls Have Babies More Than Their European American Counterparts

European American teenage girls that get pregnant are more likely to have an abortion or give their baby up for adoption than African American or Hispanic teens. A small part of this may be finances, but more so I think is the strong anti-abortion and anti-adoption heritage in these communities. These children are also more likely to grow up in poverty if these young mothers are emulating their family and community. If it is the norm for 16 year old girls to get pregnant, drop out and get on welfare, where is the push for other young girls in the community to be different? If these young girls mothers had them while they were young, had more kids than they could financially and psychologically take care of, and these young girls older siblings repeated the cycle, it is incredibly hard for this young lady to avoid that same trap unless she has a strong will or other safety measures and programs are put in place.

Real Life Example

The other day a good friend of mine called me in shock. His 15 year old daughter is pregnant. She’s only in the 8th grade. This saddened me, but this is a generational curse. Her mother had her when she was 16 which is about the same age her grandmother had her mother. However, my friend and this young ladies mother were doing the best they could to keep her from making those mistakes, but it wasn’t enough. I’m convinced that the psychosocial factors surrounding her getting pregnant and then deciding she wants to keep the baby were even stronger and more prominent than whatever interventions her parents were trying to implement.

The Good News

Despite the popularity of shows like “16 and Pregnant”, The number of teenage girls that are getting pregnant is at its lowest point in nearly two decades according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, according to the CDC, 1,100 teenage women get pregnant each year which means that about one out of every ten babies born are born to teen moms.

Better education and prevention programs need to be put in place and it all starts at home. Don’t be afraid to talk to your teen or preteen about sex. If you are uncomfortable talking to them, they will be uncomfortable talking to you and you both will end up having an uncomfortable conversation when she becomes pregnant. Get sexually active teens on a form of birth control. Yes abstinence is the best way, but birth control AND a condom will hopefully keep your sexually active teen from becoming a teen mother.

3 thoughts on “Young, Poor and Pregnant

  1. I would really like to ask you a couple questionss.. I stumbled onto this because i was googling “why older men want to date younger girls” and i found a lot of this to be very helpfull im in my mid twenties and am dating a girl who is almost 17.. My intentions arnt malicious and im not doing this because of sex. Ive already told her i want to wait till she is 17 to do anything besides kissing.. And it seems she keeps wanting to go farther… Im an honest and hard working person who has been through a lot! And i wouldnt classify myself as one of these malocious guys whom is seeking youger girlss. Im not with her because she is “cooler” then girls my agee.. Im with her because i trust her.

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