Teenage pregnancy has been associated with an endless cycle of poverty. It has been seen that usually the occurrence of teen pregnancy is seen in persons from a lower economic background. Similarly, teenagers who become pregnant tend to drop out of school, resulting in a population with lower qualification and unable to take on higher-paying jobs. Thus the vicious cycle of poverty continues unabated. Teenage pregnancy also results in poor health and long-term repercussions for both the young mother and her children. The need to address this health issue is thus gaining significance; despite the falling rates of teenage pregnancy during the last decade. Poor health of women who get pregnant in their teens is an issue that has to be dealt with immediately as is the school dropout issue
The United Kingdom has been recording a high rate of teenage pregnancy as compared to other countries of similar economic and social stature. Although teenage pregnancy is not necessarily considered adverse to the well-being of the child, there are hostile economic and social outcomes even after adjusting the matrix for pre-existent health and politico-social issues. It has been seen that the age falling between the ambit of childhood and adulthood is filled with extreme anatomical and psychological tendencies that have statistically been recorded to cause unintended pregnancies. These, consequently, pose imminent threats to the young mothers, their families and the society at large. (DiCenso, et al., 2002).
THE VICIOUS CYCLE OF TEENAGE PREGNANCY
These teenage pregnancies often times lead to the creation of an unending loop of poverty, misery and illiteracy that restrain the individual and the infant to get out of the society’s shadowed ignominy. Certain studies show that the traditional approaches (sex education classes, sexual health facilities, and so on) to reduce the instances of such pregnancies have not been very effective (Harden, et al., 2009). Several studies further reflect that teenage pregnancies are directly related to external factors such as poverty, lack of education, discrimination and social backwardness. (RP & Goonewardene , 2005) Subsequently, the external factor induced Teen Pregnancy, usually unintended, generates another parallel fast lane to social exclusion and aggravated poverty (Graham & McDermott, 2005).
Although the rate of teen pregnancy has been on a steady decline, the government needs to take proactive measures to educate the public and prevent such UTP through policy measures. Other than the factors mentioned above, other elements that supplement the rationale for the high volume of Unintended Teenage Pregnancy in the UK are often lack of proper sexual education despite the best efforts of the concerned authorities. Estranged relationships, lack of self-esteem and misery at school could pave the path to a teenaged mother who is enamoured with the idea of having someone to love in their lives (Department for Education and Skills, 2006).
UNINTEND TEENAGE PREGNANCIES AND ITS REPERCUSSIONS
Unintended Teenage Pregnancies creates an unusually dynamic equation regarding the level of education the young mother can acquire. The likelihood of UTP is statistically higher in poorly educated females, possibly because of an ambition related vacuum and aimlessness. Further, those enrolled in public schools have been found to be more likely to be associated with UTP as there is no adverse effect of bunking school days. It has also been surveyed that a dislike for school surroundings, bullying and a hostile environment have led to a poor educational attainment. The lack of ambition and the said negative surroundings allow the UTP to be considered as a positive step forward in the lives of the young mothers.
Although some studies suggest that early childhood interventions and structural programmes may reduce UTP, evidence suggests that sex education and better health services may do nothing to reduce the cases of UTP. These have been studied through a number of survey-based research papers. The element of poverty causes teenage pregnancy and the teenage pregnancy as has been shown cascades into poorer surroundings and backwardness (Lawlor & Shaw, 2002). It is indeed a devilish, deadly and vicious cycle that is hard to get out of. Thus, policy measures that are aimed at complementing rather than replacing the traditional modes of reducing UTP such as improving enjoyment levels in school, raising ambitions for the future by providing the youth with relevant social support skills (Graham, 2006), would be able to play a pivotal role in changing the present scenario.
Despite recent success in reducing the number of children living amongst England’s poorest single parent households, the UK still garners an average of four to five percent of UTP more than other developed countries. Thus, it should be the prime focus of the government policy to reduce UTP. (Tinsley, 2014), in order to improve the overall health of the nation. Linking future employment rates and economic stability of future generation with UTP would be a positive step towards reducing the chances of teenage pregnancies across the country. The first step in this regard could be to improve the parameters of unplanned pregnancies, thus allowing the policy makers to categorize the groups effectively.
Recognized by the British Government, the problem still persists even after 16 years of Tony Blair making a pertinent observation in 1999 (Social Exclusion Unit, 1999), wherein he said that while a few of these teenaged mothers and their children went on to live happily, most tend to slip into the depths of despair. These teenaged mothers, often children themselves, tend not to complete their education. This results in a vicious cycle of unemployment or underemployment; and lack of funds for a good life. It is also seen that many of these individuals tend to remain single and the children live out their lives in poverty. Furthermore, the vicious cycle permeates into the next generation as well, with the children being at a high risk of poor health as well as the tendency of becoming teenage mothers themselves. The tendency to reach out for drugs, prostitution and a life of crime is also high in both the teenaged mothers as well as their children. The failure to tackle this problem effectively has continued to foster this problem in society within at large.
FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO UNINTENDED TEENAGE PREGNANCY
Statistically speaking, the number of UTPs fell in the 1970s for most of Western Europe except the UK. Thus, as a result of not being able to keep up with the regional downward trend in UTP, the UK now has the highest rate of UTP when compared to other countries in Western Europe. Despite setting aside the moral fibre of the English society, the figures are still disturbing as it indicates both the cause and event of social and societal exclusion. In fact, it has been recorded that the risk of a lower social class girl engaging in a UTP is about ten times higher than a female from a family with a professional background (Fraser, et al., 1995).
There are other factors like homelessness, ethnicity, religion, crime, unemployment and emotional disturbance that induce a young female to foster a UTP. Though the government has recognized the problem and has spent a substantial amount of the public’s money to eradicate the problem from the roots; the fruits have not reaped a return for the betterment of society. Moreover, the numbers are terrifying, to say the very least. Despite being the highest user of contraceptives, two to three percent of the teenage female subset in the United Kingdom was found to have been engaged in a Teenage Pregnancy. Although this number is down from 5.5 percent mark of the 1970s, it is still a gloomy figure to be associated with.
Although the 1999 objective of the government has been fulfilled, the question of too little too late still persists. It is absolutely imperative that we keep the focus on UTP and its reduction to maintain the progress and narrow the gap of inequalities amongst the UK and comparable developed nations. What then seems to be the issue that is not allowing the decline of UTP to be faster? It is the confusing marketing messages emanating from the media that is sustaining this debacle. Public jubilation and the conniving use of sexuality coupled with irresponsible discussions and almost namesake sex education has lured the disadvantaged social groups into accepting the occurrence of UTP as a normal part of life (Westall, 1997).
Although the number of school dropouts has decreased over the last decade, the implications of the failure of education are more than evident in the fabric of society at large. The inequality in education due to social stigma and socio-economic differences has been documented through various studies. Though a pregnant teenager may complete school, the psychological and emotional turbulence due to the societal pressure indubitably affects the education attainment of the individual. (Lynch, 1999) Thus, the public health issue becomes a part of a larger social debate with a wider implication and discourse. Further, the politico-symbolism panic mobilization in the heady regions of the UK reinforces the need to tackle this problem immediately and with utmost priority.
Department for Education and Skills, 2006. Teenage Pregnancy: Autumn Strategy Document, London: S.N.
Dicenso, A., Guyatt, G., Willan, A. & Griffith, L., 2002. Interventions To Reduce Unintended Pregnancies Among Adolescents: Systematic Review Of Randomised Controlled Trial. British Medical Journal, Volume 324, P. 1526.
Fraser, A., Brockert, J. & Ward, R., 1995. Association Of Young Maternal Age With Adverse Reproductive Outcomes. New England Journal Of Medicine , Volume 332, Pp. 1113-7.
Graham, H. & Mcdermott, E., 2005. Qualitative Research And The Evidence Base Of Policy: Insights From Studies Of Teenage Mothers In The Uk. Journal Of Social Policy, 35(1), Pp. 21-37.
Graham, H., 2006. Social Determinants And Public Health Policy In The Uk. In: A. Kiloran, A. Swann & M. Kelly, Eds. An Evidence-Based Approach To Public Health And Tackling Health Inequalities: Opportunities And Challenges. London: Oxford University Press.
Harden, A., Brunton, G. & Oakley, A., 2009. Teenage Pregnancy And Social Disadvantage: Systematic Review Integrating Controlled Trials And Qualitative Studies. British Medical Journal, 339(7731).
Lawlor, D. A. & Shaw, M., 2002. Too Much Too Young? Teenage Pregnancy Is Not A Public Health Problem. International Journal Of Epidemiology, Volume 31, Pp. 552-554.
Lynch, K., 1999. The Status Of Children And Young People: Educational And Related Issues. In: S. Healy & Reynolds S, Eds. Social Policy In Ireland: Principles, Practice And Problems.. Dublin: Oak Tree Press, Pp. 321-349.
Rp, D. W. & Goonewardene , I., 2005. Adverse Effects Of Teenage Pregnancy.. Ceylon Med J, 50(3), Pp. 116-120.
1. Social Exclusion Unit, 1999. Teenage Pregnancy. London: S.N.
2. Tinsley, M., 2014. Parenting Alone - Work And Welfare In Single Parent Households. London: Policy Exchange.
Westall, J., 1997. Poor Education Linked With Teenage Pregnancies. British Medical Journal, Volume 314, P. 537.