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Abstract

The issue at hand is the analysis of teen pregnancy situation in the United States. The cases of teen pregnancy in American society have been declining steadily, with different social groups registering small numbers of pregnant teenagers. The analysis starts with an introduction where the primary information about cases of teen pregnancies is presented and accompanied by some basic statistics illustrating the situation in the United States. This is followed by an in-depth look into statistics where various avenues of teen pregnancy are elaborated in figures. Moreover, the study shows both the social and economic significance of statistics in society. In line with the intention of the study, there is thorough coverage of the impact of teen pregnancy on teenagers themselves accompanied by the potential exposure they face. There is also coverage of personal effects on pregnant teenagers. This is followed by a detailed discussion of potential solutions that can be utilized in reducing the rates of teen pregnancy. The study ends with a conclusion where the most important aspects are outlined. The major finding of the paper is that to reduce the rates of teen pregnancy, teenagers should be more informed about sex life and its possible consequences.

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Teen Pregnancy in the US

Teen pregnancy is a major challenge that society is currently facing where young girls become pregnant, sometimes even those who are 15 years old. The greatest problem is the fact that it exposes teenagers to the responsibilities that come with having and raising a child that they are not mature and ready enough to deal with (Weed, Nicholson, & Farris, 2015). Moreover, in most instances, teenage pregnancies are unplanned, which makes victims face huge difficulties both physically and emotionally (Corinna, 2016). Besides, with the teen pregnancies being usually unplanned, the majority of these cases usually lead to either abortion or adoption, and both options affect victims psychologically, not to mention the effects of societal stereotypes (Sadler, Novick, & Meadows-Oliver, 2016). In the context of the United States, the issue of teen pregnancy has been one of the primary challenges in the healthcare sector. To illustrate the magnitude of the problem, in the year 2014, there were about 249,078 babies born to girls aged between 15-19 years (CDC, 2016). However, this was a huge gain regarding curbing the challenge because it represented a 9% drop as compared to the number of cases in 2013 (CDC, 2016). Even though this was an achievement, more needs to be done to eliminate this problem because there was still a birth rate of 24.2 per 1,000 female teenagers aged between 15-19 years (CDC, 2016). With the U.S. statistics being higher than in equally developed western countries, the battle against teen pregnancy is far from being won and more needs to be done to address this problem.

Statistics

In the United States, teen pregnancy cases have been demonstrating a declining pattern from the year 1991. In 1991, there were about 61.8 births among 1000 teenagers (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). In 2014, the teen pregnancy cases reduced by 11% and 7% for females aged between 15-17 and 18-19 years old, respectively (CDC, 2016). As a result, there was a considerable decrease in the birth rate from 61.8 in 1991 to 24.2 in 2014 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). This pattern can also be seen in the year 2015 where the number of cases of teen pregnancies was 229,888 (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, n.d.). This represented a birth rate of 22 babies per 1000 teen girls aged between 15-19 years (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, n.d.).

The decrease in the national statistics was a result of the decline in different constitutes of American society. When comparing the 2014 and 2013 statistics presented by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (n.d.), one can notice that the teen pregnancy rate among non-Hispanic white teens was 17/1000, which was a decline of 7%. Among the non-Hispanic black teens, the birth rate was 35/1000, which was equal to a decline of 11% compared to 2013. In the context of the Hispanic teens, the birth rate was pegged at 38/1000, presenting a 9% decline from 2013. Similarly, among the Alaska Native and American Indian teens, the birth rate in 2014 was 27/100, which was equal to a 12% decline from 2013. Finally, in the case of the Asian and Pacific Islander teens, the birth rate was 8/1000, representing an 11% decline (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, n.d.). The statistics clearly demonstrate that cases of teen pregnancy are reducing, a pattern that has been consistent for over 20 years.

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However, 45% of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, which may serve as an indication that the majority of cases of teen pregnancy are not intentional as well (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, n.d.). In 2011, about 75% of the cases of teen pregnancy were unplanned (Child Trends, 2016b). Another shocking fact brought about by the statistics is the fact that, in 2014, 1/6 births among the teenagers aged 15-19 were to girls who already had one or more children, which was equal to 17% (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). This is a clear indication that there is also the challenge of multiple teen pregnancy cases. Considering this aspect of teen pregnancy in the United States and the fact that, despite the decline in the number of cases, the statistics are still high, more needs to be done to safeguard the welfare of teenagers in the society.

Weight of the Statistics and the Corresponding Impact on the Society

The 2015 statistics indicate that a huge number of teen girls are still becoming pregnant. As mentioned above, the national birth rate in 2015 was 229,888, which is higher as compared to the number of cases in the United Kingdom and Canada, countries that are almost in the same category regarding economic power (Magill, 2012). According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (n.d.), the problem of teen pregnancy attracted public spending of $21 billion. In particular, $9.4 billion were channeled toward realigning healthcare to provide better care for pregnant teenagers (CDC, 2016). Moreover, cases of teen pregnancy also account for a huge number of young teen girls dropping out of high school. According to the CDC (2016), only 50% of teen mothers can receive a high school diploma by the age of 22 years. On the contrary, 90% of females who are not pregnant in their teens graduate from high school (CDC, 2016).

Furthermore, teen pregnancy also has negative effects on the social life of teenagers. According to the CDC (2016), there is a higher probability of the incarceration of teenage mothers during their adolescence, which adversely affects the child’s upbringing. Moreover, teen parents usually do not provide the necessary support and guidance to their children since they are generally physically, emotionally, and psychologically unprepared. As a result, their children are highly vulnerable to the bad influence of their peers, leading to them being involved in committing wrong deeds and being incarcerated.

Moreover, cases of teen pregnancy also negatively influence the American society that loses tax revenue owing to the lower education qualification and attainment, leading to low-wage jobs. It is estimated that cases of teen pregnancy lead to the United States losing between $9.4 and $28 billion as a result of foster care expenditures, public assistance payments, and lost tax revenue collection, to name but a few (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). Over and above, these cases also have detrimental effects on the health sector where children born to teen parents usually have higher chances of suffering from poorer health outcomes throughout their lives.

Possible Decisions Made by the Teen Mother

Despite the cases of teen pregnancy causing both economic and social challenges, the greatest victims are teen girls themselves. They are exposed to situations and demands that they cannot handle due to either young age or a lack of capacity. Moreover, there are major decisions made that revolve around their welfare and that of their unborn child. There are two common decisions female teenagers have to make, namely to keep the baby or to give it for adoption or abort it. These are usually complex decisions that pregnant teens have to face.

Abortion

It is a tough topic for teens due to their complexity and lasting impact. According to Child Trends (2016b), close to a quarter of the total American cases of teen pregnancy ends in abortion. In the context of the United States, in 2011, cases of abortion among the teens had declined by 74% among the whites, 70% among the Hispanics, and 58% among the blacks (Child Trends, 2016a). The massive decline is closely associated with the general decline in teen pregnancy cases. Another aspect of teen abortions is that cases of abortion are more common among older teenagers. According to Child Trends (2016a), in 2011, abortion rates were 2.2/1000, 7.5/1000 and 22.2/1000 for the teens aged 15, 15-17, and 18-19, respectively. Moreover, it was the finding that teen abortion cases were higher among black teens. Their abortion rate was 32.6/1000 as compared to 8.5/1000 for the whites and 12.7/1000 for the Hispanics. Thus, it is clear that cases of abortion are common when it comes to cases of teen pregnancy.

Therefore, abortion cases are a serious challenge in the United States, and the Healthy People 2020 has marked this issue as a worthy area of concern. The intention of this policy is to ensure that cases of teen abortion are avoided by battling the cases of teen pregnancies (Child Trends, 2016a). This is also the intention of the CDC (2016), where the aim is to reduce the cases of teen pregnancies through improved health equity among the youth. The bottom line is that the only way of reducing the cases of teen abortion is by curbing the occurrence of teen pregnancy.

Reasons for abortion. One of the main reasons a good number of teen pregnancies end in abortion is the concern that delivering children and bringing them up will derail some personal ambitions. One of the reasons some teens go through with an abortion is because they feel that having a baby will jeopardize their ability to complete their studies in time (Kenney & Mazza, 2015). This phenomenon can be illustrated by the fact that many abortions among teens occur among adolescents who are between 18-19 years old. At this age, personal goals are clearer and thus it is easier to weigh options on whether the pregnancy can be accommodated within personal plans.

Another reason for going ahead with abortion is the worry about the corresponding financial responsibilities that come with keeping the baby. Since the majority of teen pregnancies are unintended, teens involved have no proactive plans regarding finance (Karst & Lindsey, 2016). It is of importance to appreciate that most teenagers are under the care of their parents or guardians; thus, if they cannot support the idea of keeping the baby, the teens have no other choice but to make abortion as the only possible solution to their predicaments.

There are also teenagers who feel that they are too young to be parents, which is another factor that contributes to a high rate of abortions. In this case, the decision is already predetermined by the teen concerned. This factor cuts across all the other factors such as the lack of financial ability and personal goals. It is out of reasoning based on these premises that a personal decision is made. However, the ideology of not being of the right age is sometimes formed under the influence of the family members, friends, or society as a whole.

Adoption

Another choice that young females who become pregnant may make is to give the child for adoption. Many pro-life movements agitate for this direction in case a mother is unable or unwilling to bring up her baby (Karst & Lindsey, 2016). Similarly, teenagers see adoption as an avenue through which they can ascertain that they will continue with their lives and, at the same time, guarantee a good future for the child.

Closed adoption. There are two primary forms of adoption. In a closed adoption plan, all the details of the child’s birth mother are hidden from both adopting parents and the child. This is a situation where the birth mother does not wish to stay in contact with the child or even the parents who will adopt the child (Teen pregnancy options, 2012). Moreover, the name of the father of the child is not even indicated on the birth certificate. This is the most preferred manner of adoption for teen mothers.

Open adoption. In the context of an open adoption plan, the birth mother is in close contact with adopting parents. Moreover, the child knows the birth mother since they keep a close relationship (Teen pregnancy options, 2012). However, there are different levels of closeness that the parties can have. For example, the birth mother may be allowed to visit the child occasionally. In some instances, the personal contact is not allowed, but the birth mother can write letters to her child. The majority of teen mothers does not prefer this plan since they do not want to keep close contact with their baby.

Adoption rights. In the context of the United States, the adoption process is common with many infertile couples willing to adopt a child when there is an opportunity. However, this is a decision that needs to be carefully considered to ensure that the mother is fully aware of her rights and the impact of the decision on her and the baby. As stated by the National Council for Adoption, adoption provides a platform where the interests of the mother and the baby are safeguarded. It is the demand of the Council to ensure that the rule of law and ethics are applied in the process of adoption. The parent considering adoption has several rights.

Right to full information. The demand at hand is to ensure that the parent considering adoption has access to all relevant information. In the case of a teenager, there is a need to make sure that all possible information, its role, and impact are fully available to the teen mother.

The right to make an independent decision. Despite the age, a mother is the first person who knows what qualifies to be termed as the best decision for her and the baby. Therefore, the rules of adoption expect that the mother should be given the right environment to make the appropriate decision for her and her child. Thus, it is anticipated that the adoption process is free of coercion and all the parties involved in the process provide the needed support (Karst & Lindsey, 2016). This is a demand that is highly protective of the mother, particularly in the case of the teen mothers who might not be fully conversant with the laws of adoption. Moreover, under this right, the mother has an opportunity to opt-out of the adoption plan according to her state’s law at any given time.

Right to professional counseling. This right demands that both the mother and the father have access to the right counseling environment, which is non-judgmental. The aim is to ensure that parents have a healthy space where they can process all the relevant information to make sure they make the right decision (Child Trends, 2016a). In the case of teen parents, counseling is crucial due to the complexity of the adoption decision. It is vital to ensure that they fully understand the impact of adoption commitment.

Right to a safe and legal process. The right ensures that the interests of all parties in an adoption plan are protected. The right to safe and legal process demands that the rights of the mother and the child are observed in the adoption process to ensure that it is fair and efficient for all (Child Trends, 2016a). Thus, it is demanded that the mother is taken through the adoption regulation of her state to make sure that all areas of concern are explained to her.

The right to choose the mode of the after-adoption communication plan. Parents considering going through an adoption process need to be fully aware of this crucial right to make the most relevant decision on matters regarding the communication after the completion of the adoption process. In the context of a teenager, being too young both psychologically and emotionally, there is a need to ensure that the right decision regarding communication is made. This is the right that heavily depends on the form of adoption a teen or any other mother has agreed to in her decision (Karst & Lindsey, 2016). The aim is to ensure that it is possible for the birth mother to maintain communication and relations with her child even after completing the adoption process.

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The right to be involved in choosing adopting parents. Choosing parents who will take care of the child is another complex decision that pregnant teens face. In line with safeguarding the interest of the child and that of the mother, there is a need to ensure that the birth mother is fully integrated into the process (Karst & Lindsey, 2016). This demand is aimed at reassuring the birth mother that her child is with the right parents. It profoundly resonates with the teen mothers since they usually choose a closed type of adoption plan, which necessitates ensuring that the right people are the ones given the mandate of bringing up the child.

Effects on the Teen Mother

Teen pregnancy cases not only hurt the society economically and socially but also lead to the teen mother facing huge challenges both at a personal level and as a member of the family and the society at large. The effects on the teenage mother can be classified into two categories, namely physical and mental.

Physical Effects

As mentioned earlier, teen pregnancy is still a subject that many in society find hard to accept. Physical body changes are some of the inevitable challenges that pregnant teenagers face where their general outlook completely changes. As a result, some of them may lose self-confidence (Kenney & Mazza, 2015). Sometimes, the teenagers may also experience pregnancy complications such as nausea and anemia since their bodies have not fully grown to meet pregnancy demands such as the provision of nutrients to the fetus.

Mental Effects

Teenage mothers also suffer from mental problems, particularly those closely relating to emotions. Social stigma is one of the challenges they face where they are always judged. Sometimes, they receive harsh criticism even from family members and, consequently, they lack a proper support system, thus developing depression (Koh, 2014). Moreover, loneliness and isolation are other common challenges that teenage mothers face as close friends often alienate them. In the majority of cases, victims find themselves deserted by their friends not even to mention their partners and boyfriends. Moreover, they may be portrayed as immoral persons (Koh, 2014). Anxiety is another mental challenge pregnant teenagers face due to the element of the “unknown” factor as they try to cope with their new reality. They are also fearful since many cases are unplanned and thus demand a completely new experience for which they are totally unprepared with regards to the capacity and ability (Ott, 2014). Frustration is another challenge that pregnant teenagers face since, for the majority, being pregnant means forfeiting their pursuit of dreams (Fonda, 2014). Moreover, due to the topic being a sensitive one for the society, frustration among the pregnant teens also comes as a result of not sharing their predicaments with another person (McCracken & Loveless, 2014).

Solutions

Teen pregnancy rates are still high, which has necessitated both the CDC and the Healthy People 2020 to appreciate that more needs to be done. Similarly, it is the assertion that there should be measures taken regarding educating teenagers on matters relating to sex. This is the realization that despite huge figures being present, sex education is still not a mandatory requirement in schools.

Abstinence

This is one of the subjects that can be used in curbing the causes of teen pregnancy. More needs to be done under this approach because, in 2015, 86% of sexually active teens in high schools admitted to using contraceptives during their last sexual intercourse. This means that 4/10 students have engaged in sexual activity (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, n.d.). One of the ways in which teens can be encouraged to remain abstinent is a clearer demonstration of the repercussions they can face when involved in sexual activities, for instance sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy cases (Sheen, 2014). A good example of a clear illustration of repercussions of sexual activities is the MTV’s program “16 and Pregnant” because it contributed to the reduction in the number of cases of teen pregnancy in the year 2009 (Patten & Livingston, 2016). This is a good example of how intensive illustration of sexual engagement consequences can be helpful in encouraging more teens to practice abstinence not to suffer from such consequences.

Practicing Safe Sex

This is the platform that needs to be engaged in vigorously because many teens are involved in sexual activities. In the context of the fight against teen pregnancy, the intention is to make sure that teens are more aware of what qualifies to be termed as safe sex. The use of condoms should be the priority due to their double-edged benefits of preventing cases of pregnancy and protecting the parties involved from sexually transmitted diseases (Sheen, 2014). This will be possible if the topic of sex is discussed in family set-up, schools, and churches. If this topic is discussed in many places and areas, it will reach a broader audience. The topic of the use of different methods of contraceptives should also be availed to the teenagers in line with appreciating that some will continue to engage in unprotected sex intercourses.

Improving Health Equality

According to the statistics on the decline in teen pregnancy cases, one can see that it is higher among whites than Hispanics or blacks. This demonstrates that health inequalities also play a role in teen pregnancy through the lack of equal access to health services by all members of society. This is a challenge that has been recognized as the potential solution for teen pregnancy by the CDC. Its intention is to see that the evidence-based treatment approach is utilized in curbing the problem of teen pregnancy cases (CDC, 2016). Improving the availability of health services to teens will improve the accessibility of sex education and treatment for all, thus confronting the challenge in an inclusive manner.

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Conclusion

It is evident that the number of cases of teen pregnancy in the United States has declined to an all-time low of 229,888 in the year 2015. However, it is clear that this number is too high compared to the rates in the United Kingdom and Canada, countries that are relative to the same economic power. Moreover, more teens are involved in sexual activities, with 86% of high school students admitting to being involved in sexual intercourse. The challenge of teen pregnancy has been a huge problem in American society since it has been attracting more costs to the healthcare sector. Besides, teen pregnancy also has economic effects where it leads to the loss of tax revenue collection that is caused by low paying jobs and a low level of education of teen mothers.

With the majority of the teen pregnancy cases being unintended, the teenagers end up either in the abortion or adoption process. These two processes present the best solution for those who feel that they are not ready to be parents, are not in a position to manage the situation financially, or feel that having the baby will be a hindrance to their goals. It is a common agreement of both the CDC and the Heathy People 2020 that teen pregnancy cases remain a problem in the American society that needs to be given more attention. With the challenge affecting the youth and the society, in general, there is a need to ensure that teenagers are empowered enough to make better sexual decisions as a means of protecting them and the society at large.