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Teen Pregnancy

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Essay title: Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy is not just a rare virus that has recently sprung up and will someday disappear due to some type of cure. Adolescent pregnancy has plagued our country for over three centuries, but it is only more recently that we have noticed its growth and severe impact on many aspects of society.

The social change that leads to this visibility is not only based on a change in sexual behaviors, but it also is based on a change in the nature of adolescence. These changes begin with the decline of the average age of menarche. The average age for menarche in girls ten years ago was 14.2; this age has dropped by two years since then. The average age for menarche today is 12.2. This statistic suggests that since girls are capable of having children at younger ages they are also more apt to have sex at a younger age.

The social changes that effects these statistics deal with the raising of the average age of marriage, standard attitudes towards marriage as a sacred institution, and economic shifts which have led to a need for longer educational careers. These changes have produced pockets of urban poverty where education is often not valued or taken seriously.

Unfortunately, the need for higher education is reflected in the fact that only at levels after high school has enrollment increased in recent years, and only in the late teens are whites more likely than blacks to enroll in an educational institution. Due to the demands of the economy many young people are dependent on their parents for a longer peroid of time which has left some groups without access to the economic options that allow them to prepare for the future.

Despite the fact that the teen birth rate is slowly falling, there are still an estimated one million teen pregnancies in the United States alone. About 85% of these pregnancies are unplanned, which in any population can increase the risk for problems. The biggest risk for teen mothers is delaying prenatal care or worse, 7.2% received no care at all.

Approximately 30% of all pregnancies to teens in South Carolina are repeat pregnancies. Nationally, in 2002, there were nearly 89,000 repeat teen births, representing 21 percent of all births to teenagers in the United States. Nearly one-quarter of teen mothers have a second birth before turning 20. These births impose significant burdens on the young mothers, their children, their families and society generally. Given all this, we question why such large percentages become pregnant again relatively quickly, and what can be done to alter this pattern? The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births in the western industrialized world. Teen pregnancy costs the United States at least $7 billion annually.

The teen birth rate has declined slowly but steadily from 1991 to 2002 with an overall decline of 30 percent for those aged 15 to 19. These recent declines reverse the 23-percent rise in the teenage birth rate from 1986 to 1991. The largest decline since 1991 by race was for black women. The birth rate for black teens aged 15 to 19 fell 42 percent between 1991 to 2002. Hispanic teen birth rates declined 20 percent between 1991 and 2002. The rates of both Hispanics and blacks, however, remain higher than for other groups. Hispanic teens now have the highest teenage birth rates. Most teenagers giving birth before 1980 were married whereas most teens giving birth today are unmarried.

The primary reason that teenage girls who have never had intercourse give for abstaining from sex is that having sex would be against their religious or moral values. Other reasons cited include desire to avoid pregnancy, fear of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and not having met the appropriate partner. Three of four girls and over half of boys report that girls who have sex do so because their boyfriends want them to.

Teenagers who have strong emotional attachments to their parents are much less likely to become sexually active at an early age and less likely to have a teen pregnancy.

Adolescents growing up in this kind of environment face a greater challenge than those who have grown up than in the past. The sequence of events that lead from adolescence to adulthood have become longer and more complex. This is partially due to the enormous

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