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Teen pregnancy is a major health concern in the American school system. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the birth rate among female adolescents increased 3 percent in the year 2006, after decades of decline (Hamilton, Martin, & Ventura, 2007). The incidence of adolescent pregnancy in United States is higher than the majority of other industrialized Western nations, with 39.1 births per 1000 teens in 2009 (Pazol, Warner, Gavin, Gallaghan, Spitz, Anderson, & Kann, 2011). This is worrisome to the American society because teen births are associated with poor behavioral, educational, and fiscal outcomes for the teens and their children affected by adolescent pregnancy (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2005).
These teen pregnancies result from inconsistent birth control use, a lack of knowledge about proper sexual health practices, and ambivalence towards pregnancy (Santelli & Melnikas, 2010). Due to the high birth rate and frequency fluctuations in teen pregnancy, policy makers must renew their focus on adjusting the sexual health education courses in the public high schools nationwide to better suit student needs. A variety of prevention initiatives are implemented on a yearly basis, with varying effectiveness. As such, further investigation into adolescent perceptions of teen pregnancy must be performed to better facilitate effective educational programs in the school setting. Comprehensive Literature Review
Students expressed an “optimistic bias” in numerous studies. “Optimistic bias” is defined as the perception that students are less likely than others to experience negative consequences from their health behaviors (Chapin, 2001). In a study of 28 adolescent African American parents, many admitted to previous attitudes regarding a diminished estimation of personal risk (Smith, 2004). This bias contributed to inconsistent birth control use in this teenage population. Another study, performed in Sweet Home, Oregon, found teens to attribute pregnancy as a “chance” result of sexual activity (Little, Henderson, Pedersen, & Stonecipher, 2010). This lack of personal responsibility has been seen in other studies on teenage pregnancy perception (Talashek, Alba, & Patel, 2004).
Chapin noted the initial absence of negative consequences for unprotected adolescent sex reinforced this bias in the studied population of urban adolescents in New Jersey (2001). As such, those students who did not contract sexually transmitted infections or become pregnant assumed that they would not experience those consequences. This is congruent with Kirby’s reflections that knowledge is only weakly related to behavior (Kirby, 1999). These students do not utilize their understanding of their pregnancy risk in congruence with their behaviors regarding sexual activity. Pregnancy to Attain Love
Many students described the perception that adolescent females might desire pregnancy as a way to maintain a relationship with their current partner (Herman, 2007; Little et al.,2010). All focus groups from a high school in Sweet Home, Oregon stated that they felt some teenage girls might want a child to fulfill their desire for love or attention (Little et al., 2010). In Delaware, at-risk adolescents explained to the principal investigator that their peers with dysfunctional family lives might seek the attention and affection from their sexual partner that they are not receiving at home, which could lead to pregnancy (Herrman, 2008).
Using sex as a coping strategy was witnessed in other studies as well (Sipsma et al., 2011). In Sipsma et al.’s qualitative study of pregnancy desire and scores on the Perceived Stress Scale, a higher level of stress was noted among those who desired pregnancy (2011). These results were interpreted to suggest that pregnancy may be used as a coping mechanism in reaction to stressful environments (Sipsma et al., 2011). Furthermore, Talashek, Alba, and Patel found that having successful coping mechanisms is a protective factor against pregnancy, in their study of African American, Puerto Rican, and Mexican inner-city adolescents (2006).
Pregnancy as a result of Social Stigma surrounding Contraceptive Use Many adolescents reported a double standard that impacts their comfort in utilizing contraception. In Herrman’s Delaware study, it was discovered that negative cognitions surrounding females who carried condoms (2011). These women who had condoms in possession were considered to be sexually promiscuous by her peers, though a male carrying condoms was revered as a “pimp” (Herrman, 2011). Thus, many female students do not carry around contraceptives for fear of judgment by her peers. In one qualitative Pennsylvania conference on pregnancy prevention, it was noted that male students simply assumed their female partners to be on birth control pills (Fay & Yanoff, 2000). This misconception was furthered because both sexes felt “uncomfortable” or “awkward” discussing the use of contraceptives during intimacy (Fay & Yanoff, 2000). Pregnancy Negatively Impacts Parental Freedom
In all perception-related studies reviewed, the major perception noted was the limiting effect pregnancy and parenthood have on the adolescent parents. Many teens recognized that being pregnant and having a child would severely inhibit the mother’s ability to attend and complete school and eventually provide a quality life for their child (Little et al., 2010). Furthermore, teens recognized that being pregnant and having a child is time consuming, and would have negative impacts on social interaction (Herrman, 2008). Some teenage fathers explained to researchers that having a child means that the male must constantly focus his attention and time on helping the others in his family, preventing him from doing “fun” activities that he might want to (Harris & Jewel, 1998). Other factors that teen mothers think other female adolescents should consider prior to pregnancy include the impact of irresponsible partners and a child would have on their ability to work, attend school, and have free time (Smith, 2004). Significance
Many variables are associated with adolescent pregnancies, including community and peer influences, socioeconomic status, perception of peer risk activity level, strength of family relationships, and parental education (Blum & Mmari, 2006, Santelli & Melknikas, 2010). In Kirby’s reflection over the past 20 years in adolescent fertility research, perception has been found to be a strong predictor of adolescent sexual behavior (Kirby, 1999). As a result, teen perception of pregnancy is an important concept for focus. There has been insufficient research into teen perceptions as social determinants of teen pregnancy (Santelli & Melknikas, 2010). In addition, the majority of the literature available focuses on the adolescent perceptions in the Southern United States, which has limited applicability in the different areas.
Specifically, there has been no research to be found that is relevant to the student culture present in the New England area. Further limitations of previous research involve study’s examination of minority student’s attitudes and perceptions, hindering the resulting applicability to primarily Caucasian areas, such as New England. This study’s focus on the perceptions of New England teens will provide valuable insight into the unique attitudes of the area. Implications of this research will include enhanced understanding of perceptions to address in comprehensive sexual health courses. http://amh84.wordpress.com/literature-review-of-pregnancy-perceptions-among-adolescents/ REVIEW OF RELATED STUDIES
What are the longer term effects of having a child as a teenager? New research from the Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Essex has used recent birth cohort and household panel data sets to explore the ‘causal effects’ of teenage motherhood, looking at a wide range of possible consequences for both mother and child. Their findings take account of associations arising partly from the fact that already-disadvantaged teenagers have a higher risk of having a baby.
The aim of the research is to study the medium and long-term consequences of teenage births for mothers and their children. Most of the current knowledge of the associations between teenage motherhood and subsequent outcomes for mothers and their children is for women born in 1958. The present research provides an important up-date of these, and the use of three different sources of data allows consideration of the robustness of these associations across time and types of data. The research attempts to assess the ‘true causal effects’ of teenage motherhood, as opposed to associations arising partly from the ‘selection into’ teenage motherhood. This has been difficult to do in previous research because of limitations on the data available. This study exploits information on miscarriages and siblings to identify these effects. Before formulating policies to ameliorate the negative consequences of teenage motherhood, the existence, nature and size of such consequences must be established.
Women from poorer backgrounds and from areas with higher unemployment rates are more likely to become mothers as a teenager – e.g. women whose fathers were in manual occupations were nearly twice as likely to have a child as a teenager than those whose fathers were in non-manual occupations, and a percentage point higher unemployment rate increases the percentage of women becoming teenage mothers from 13% to 14%.
A new and more rigorous analytical approach shows that the negative consequences of having a teen-birth for the mother are not as wide-ranging as earlier research suggested.
The primary consequence for mothers is that women having a teen-birth fare worse in the ‘marriage market’ in the sense that they partner with men who are poorly qualified and more likely to suffer unemployment. Compared to postponing childbearing beyond her teens, the probability that a teen-mother’s partner does not have education beyond 16 rises from about 60% to 80% and the probability that he has a job falls from 95% to 75%. This reduces their standard of living.
Teenage mothers suffer from poorer mental health in the three years after their birth compared with other mothers—they have 30% higher levels of mental illness 2 years after the birth, after which they start to converge to the population average.
The association of early childbearing with economic disadvantage is smaller, or non-existent, for ethnic minority groups who are already substantially disadvantaged.
Children of teenage mothers suffer as young adults in terms of lower educational attainment, a higher risk of economic inactivity and of becoming a teenage mother themselves. This may result because of the lower standard
of living experienced by many teenage mothers, owing in part to the poorer earning partners that they pair with.