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The Increase of Teenage Pregnancy

The Increase of Teenage Pregnancy

Teenage parenthood is by no means a new social phenomenon. Historically, women have tended to begin childbearing during their teens and early twenties. During the past two decades the U. S. teenage birthrate has actually declined (Polit and others, 1982). In the late 1950s, 90 out of 1000 women under 20 gave birth as compared with 52 out of 1000 in 1978. Several factors contribute to the current attention focused on teenage pregnancy and parenthood.

There is currently a large number of young women in the 13 to 19 age range, so that while the birthrates are declining, the absolute number of teenagers is increasing.

These statistics do not distinguish between intentional and unintentional pregnancies, or pregnancies occurring in or out of wedlock. From the 1978 figures, only one in six pregnancies concluded as births following marriage, and eight in ten premarital teenage pregnancies were unintended.

The declining birthrate is not consistent for all teenagers: among those 14 or younger, the birthrate is increasing.

These trends are occurring at a time when contraceptives are increasingly available to teenagers as a means of avoiding unwanted pregnancy.

The evidence documenting the unfavorable consequences of unintended teenage pregnancy and teenage parenthood, whether intended or not, has continued to mount.

There is an unmistakable and dramatic trend away from teenagers giving their children up for adoption.

Teenage Pregnancy Rate

Of the 29 million young people between the ages of 13 and 19, approximately 12 million have had sexual intercourse. Of this group, in 1981, more than 1.1 million became pregnant; three- quarters of these pregnancies were unintended, and 434,000 ended in abortion (What Government Can Do, 1984). The number of pregnancies increased among teenagers in all age groups during the 1970s, but among those who were sexually active the pregnancy rate has been declining. Because of increased and more consistent use of contraceptives by teenagers, the rate of pregnancy among them has been increasing more slowly than their rate of sexual activity. Although the number of teenagers who are sexually active increased by two-thirds over the 1970s, over half of U.S. teenagers are sexually inactive (Teenage Pregnancy, 1981).

Teenage Birthrate

About five percent of U. S. teenagers give birth each...

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...traceptives available to teenagers, and most parents favor family planning clinics providing birth control services to their children (Teenage Pregnancy, 1981). The clinics have had the expected result of improving the quality and consistency of contraceptive use among teenagers. They have also been credited with preventing an estimated 689,000 unintended births, and probably a higher number of abortions, among teenagers.

However, most teenagers are sexually active for many months before ever seeking birth control help from a family planning clinic or physician (Teenage Pregnancy, 1981). Very few come to a clinic in anticipation of initiating sexual intercourse, and many come because they fear—often correctly—that they are pregnant. The major reason teenagers give for the delay is concern that their parents will find out about the visit. Nevertheless, more than half of teenage patients have told their parents about their clinic visit, and only about one-quarter would not come if the clinic required parental notification. But most of these would continue to be sexually active, using less effective methods or no contraceptives and many thousands would get pregnant as a result.

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