Historically, teenage pregnancy was not regarded as a social problem, it was rather a norm.
Fifteen-years-old mothers were not an exception for the rule, but rather the rule. Even nowadays in many countries teenage pregnancy is a norm due to various historical, political, economical and cultural reasons. Nevertheless, in developed countries teenage pregnancy is a problem which is regarded as a social dysfunction. Thus, Americans are preoccupied with the problem and try to solve it. Admittedly, numerous cases of teenage pregnancies cause various social and economical constraints. The teenage pregnancy leads to economical problems of the entire country since many young women who could obtain education and work for the sake of the country have to seek country’s assistance.
Teenage parents do not have means to support their new families and this causes aggravation of hard economical situation in the country. Apart from various economical issues, the teenage pregnancy leads to such social and cultural problems as degradation of citizens since young people do not self-develop but simply try to find any way to support themselves and their families taking any job which does not require any qualification. It goes without saying that to find a solution to the problem it is important to identify the causes for the problem.
It is possible to point out four major causes of teenage pregnancy: the lack of parental care, poverty, peer pressure and influence of media. It is important to have a deeper look at each cause to find the most appropriate solution to the present social problem. When considering the causes of teenage pregnancy it is necessary to point out that the most significant one is the lack of parental care. Thus, one of the manifest functions of the family is to be the meaningful unit which supports the accepted social order and is a support of the state. However, there is a very important latent function of the family which presupposes that the family introduces new citizens (children) into the society, and these citizens are to form the same socially relevant unit in future. Nevertheless, not all families manage to fulfill these functions. There are many reasons for that: economical constraints which a family faces, personal problems (parents are divorcing).
There are also incomplete families where only one parent is trying to rear a child (or children). Besides, many adults are now concerned with their career goals and have no time for their children. All this leads to the lack of parental care and children have to learn basic rules themselves. In such families parents do not explain to their children the difficulties of teenage pregnancy. Thus, the function of one organ (parental care) fails to function in the appropriate way and other organs go out of order: teenagers do not understand all outcomes of their actions and this often leads to teenage pregnancy. In regards to the lack of family care it is possible to consider the problem from conflict perspective.
The major idea of this perspective, i.e. the idea of inequality and change, can also help outline the problem.
Thus, the eternal conflict between generations (parents do not understand children and vice versa) leads to children’s rebel. Pregnancy is often regarded as a privilege of adulthood, and teenagers have intimacy with their partners to escape from the order established by their parents, the order which the children regard to be incorrect. Basically, the lack of parental care leads to the lack of communication and, therefore, understanding between teenagers and their parents, which causes the teenage pregnancy.
As far as the poverty and its impact are concerned, it is possible to point out that the lack of economic resources often leads to teenage pregnancy. Admittedly, poverty is social dysfunction itself and it causes other social problem, teenage pregnancy. Social consensus presupposes that all citizens work and support their state and the state supports its citizens. The imbalance in the society leads to the establishment of the new order in the society. The new order in the reality of the United States presupposes that people try to gain at least some money without seeking ways of self-development and promotion on the social ladder.
In such situation teenagers are not preoccupied with their future to the great extent since they obey the established order. They do not think of the great responsibility of bringing up children since the only way of life they accept does not exclude having children (poor people do not really believe that they can give something better to their children or sometimes they do not they have to give anything to their children). When regarding the influence of poverty of the teenage pregnancy, it is possible to point out that inequality pays essential role in the process. Admittedly, not all people are exposed to economical resources equally.
This leads to the development of other types of inequality: poor people have fewer opportunities to obtain the necessary or prestigious education, gain the same respectability and social status, etc. The absence of these opportunities can have two effects on adolescents. On one hand, teenagers do not see other way than go on low-paid job and continue the destiny of their poor parents. Such teenagers are less concerned with making efforts to obtain education, so they are less responsible. They enter sexual relationship without considering possible consequences. On the other hand, teenage pregnancy can be regarded as possible way of trying to obtain resources from those who have them. Many girls (and sometimes boys) try to have an affair with a person who pertains to another social layer.
This is regarded as means of obtaining resources of people who have more opportunities. Thus, teenagers try to become a part of a more well-to-do family (marriage as a means of distributing resources). It is important to add that these two causes of teenage pregnancy (the lack of parental care and poverty) are interconnected since in poor families there is often the lack of parental care. The lack of economical resources (poverty) leads to the lack of responsibility in teenagers who do not see opportunities to change the established inequality. The next cause of teenage pregnancy to be considered is peer pressure. Admittedly, all people live in numerous strata within one society which co-operate promulgating certain values accepted in the society.
Thus, age is one of those strata which influence people’s behavioral patterns. The majority of teenagers are subjected to this influence greatly. It is even possible to state that peers have their own subculture within the society. It goes without saying, that this subculture is not about music or dancing style appreciated, it is about an individual’s behavior: whether he/she is regarded as “cool”, or he/she is an outsider. On one hand this social phenomenon can be characterized by a manifest function: teenagers are united by certain values. They have their own space (without parents and teachers) where they can feel free and responsible for their actions.
This “space” has another, latent, function which shapes the individuals’ behavior. Of course, it also leads to social dysfunction, teenage pregnancy. At certain age it is regarded to be a norm to start sexual life, but peers rarely discuss consequences of this sort of life. Usually teenagers’ sex life can be characterized by the word “carefree” since they are only preoccupied with acting like others (having sex) without going into details (trying to prevent pregnancy).
Basically, the rules existing in teenagers’ subculture/stratum/age group can be regarded as a social consensus, which, nevertheless, can lead to social problems, like teenage pregnancy. This cause of teenage pregnancy can be also regarded in terms of conflict perspective. As has been mentioned above, peers form a group which, as any other group, has numerous inner conflicts since the members of the group strive to obtain the leadership within the group or at least be as anyone else, rather than an outsider. In terms of this struggle for the status teenagers try to find the way to prove they are worthy. Admittedly, sex is regarded as a sign of coolness, so those who want to gain respectful status in the group choose this way. Moreover, it is quite common that teenagers press their peers to have affairs. This is often regarded a kind of manifestation of leadership.
Thus, teenagers who want to be leaders make others start sexual life, and this influence enables the former to set or prove their high rank within the group. Unfortunately, many teenagers follow unwritten rules of the age stratum without being psychologically and even physiologically ready for this. As has been already mention the peers do not care of possible consequences of their pressure on this or that person.
Interestingly, the peer pressure often leads to teenage pregnancy which is not regarded as the sign of coolness, but makes a person an outsider, rather than a leader of the group. Thus, peer pressure is one of those influential causes of teenage pregnancy since it is accepted that sexual relationship is cool, but teenagers are not ready for the responsibility required by the start of the sexual life. Finally, the last cause of teenage pregnancy to be considered is the influence of media. Admittedly, media has started playing a very important role in societies. By all means, the manifest function fulfilled by the media is to bring news and certain knowledge to every citizen of a state.
At the same time, the latent function of the media presupposes that media reflects the social consensus and the major values and principles accepted by the state, and it also develops certain stereotypes which influence people’s behavior. It is also important to point out that the majority of teenagers are exposed to media on various levels, so it is hard to escape from forming stereotypes promulgated by media. For instance, media romanticizes early sexual relationship and does not explicitly reveal the essence of the problem of teenage pregnancy.
Teenagers, especially girls, dream about love or freedom, but forget to consider such issues as contraception, pregnancy and the future of their child or their future in a role of teenage parent. Media does not depict “the dark side” of being carefree. Therefore, teenagers are not aware that the problem is a really burning one.
The majority of teenagers think that this happens to somebody else, and cannot happen to him/her. Media only supports such way of thinking. If to consider the problem in terms of the conflict perspective, it is possible to focus on the idea of struggle. In this cases the effect of media and peer pressure are quite similar.
Media creates an image of self-confident young people who are not afraid of risks and changes. This is regarded as an ideal for many teenagers. They start struggling to gain the same image. Their actions can often cause conflicts in family, school or even in their peer surrounding, but teenagers consider this conflict as a sign that they have chosen the right pass to become different, to become better or the best.
Of course, teenage pregnancy is not regarded as the goal to be achieved to become just like some “great” person from the TV. It is rather an unpleasant outcome on the way to certain status. However, teenagers do not pay attention to that risk. They are more concerned with possible changes in their life. Basically, media influence is a very potent cause of teenage pregnancy since adolescents are subjected to stereotypes which are promulgated via media, i.e.
available everywhere and every minute. Thus, since the major causes of teenage pregnancy are considered it is possible to outline possible solutions to the problem. Since parental care is the most significant factor causing teenage pregnancy it is necessary to pay attention to parental upbringing. The government, educational establishment should help parents understand the importance of their influence and their personal example. Parents should explain to their children what are the basic principles of true responsibility and freedom of adulthood. Teenagers should not find out about sex from their peers or some movies or poor quality programs. More so, this “education” of parents should be held on all social layers: for rich and poor people as well. As far as not well-to-do families are concerned it is essential to pay more attention to such children in their adolescence.
It is necessary to make them see other ways. They should understand that self-development and education can help them gain higher social status. Admittedly, these measures will help neutralize the first three causes, since if a teenager has enough parental care he/she will never act unreasonably only because somebody told so. Parents should become the authority for teenagers and this will keep adolescents from many problems, including teenage pregnancy.
Finally, the final cause, the negative influence of media, can be also diminished. Media should share responsibility for education young people. Government will have to implement certain legislation and launch initiatives which encourage media to promulgate reasonable behavior and responsibility of teenagers.
Thus, in conclusion it is possible to point out that the four major causes of teenage pregnancy (parental care, poverty, peer pressure, influence of media) should be taken into account when solving the problem. The solution presupposes the active position of government and educational establishments which can influence the spread of certain values in society.