Section One: Community/Group Issue or Problem
Teenage pregnancy is among the most prevalent social issues in the present-day America. Even though the number of teen pregnancies has declined in the recent times, the United States is still ranked as the country with the most incidences of teen pregnancies in the Western world. The United States continues to face a form of reproductive-health crisis given that at least one in every three teenagers will become pregnant before they turn 20 while one in every four risks getting a sexually transmitted infection. Besides affecting the adolescents, teenage pregnancy continues to have enormous impacts on the parents and the society in general. A considerable majority of pregnant teenagers do not complete their high school education or join higher learning institutions than those who do not get pregnant. At the same time, a majority of the teen mothers live in abject poverty and rely on welfare to feed their children and take care of themselves. The children born to teen parents are also at risk of receiving inadequate health care, experience more learning and behavioral problems at school, and spend more time in the child welfare and prison systems than children born to adult parents. In an effort at addressing this issue, there is need to focus on the factors that trigger teen pregnancies in the United States to come up with workable strategies that would assist in reducing and ultimately eliminating the issue.
Despite the reduced levels of childbearing in the United States, a significant portion of American adolescents still gets pregnant every year. According to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the teen birth rate reached the lowest level in almost seven decades in 2011. In the period from 1990 to 2008, the rate of teen pregnancy reduced from 117 to 68 pregnancies per 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19, which is the lowest rate recorded in almost four decades (Kost & Henshaw, 2012). However, a considerable number of teenagers continue to have unintended pregnancies every year, which results in negative consequences for the teenagers, their babies, and the entire society. It is estimated that at least three in every ten adolescents in America still experience early pregnancies. In spite of that massive gap, the rate of pregnancy among teenagers in the United States is still the highest among some of the most developed nations in the world.
Even though the rate of teenage pregnancy has reduced in the recent years, it is still a problematic issue in the contemporary society. Kost and Henshaw (2012) state that around 7% of American girls between the ages of 15 and 19 became pregnant in 2008. Further statistics indicate that almost 30% of women in the United States become pregnant before reaching the age of 20. At the same time, nearly 13% of men younger than 20 years in America are tangled in a pregnancy. While most adolescent children are often introduced to sexual education in both their school and homes, 82% of them are involved in unplanned pregnancies every year, which makes up 20% of unplanned pregnancies in the country.
The rate of youth pregnancies in the United States varies by race and ethnicity. Research by Kost and Henshaw (2012) shows that these incidences are more prevalent among teens of African-American descent who account for 117 of every 1,000 teen pregnancies in the United States. The rate of teenage pregnancy among Hispanic adolescents is 106.6 while that of Hispanic whites is 43.3 per every 1000 girls below the age of 20. The alarming high frequencies among the African-American and Hispanic girls serves as an indication that the issue seems to affect most of the teenagers residing in low-income areas.
Numerous factors influence the risk of teen pregnancy among young people. To begin with, the age at which one begins to have sex is an essential indicator of teenage sex risk. Kost and Henshaw (2012) argue that 46% of adolescent girls and 22% of adolescent boys that have sex before they reach 15 years are more likely to be involved in teenage pregnancy. The risk becomes lower for teenagers who engage in their first sex experience when they are older than 15 years. Secondly, adolescents who use contraception from the first moment when they start engaging in sexual intercourse are more unlikely to experience teen pregnancy in comparison to those who do not. While only 27% of girl and 12% of boys that used contraception during their first sexual encounter experience unplanned teenage pregnancies, the number rises to 43% of girls and 18% of boys who do not use the same (Kost & Henshaw, 2012). The age of their sexual partners is also an active determinant in teen pregnancy. Kost and Henshaw (2012) state that young girls who are engaged in sexual relations with individuals that are older them are at a higher risk of becoming pregnant before they reach 20 years than those who date their age mates. The same case applies to boys with older girlfriends as they are more likely to become fathers than those who date their age mates. Similar results are indicated by Cook and Cameron (2015) who argues that girls who become sexually active before the age of 16 with a partner that is at least three years older than they are likely to become teen mothers. Among the boys, those who have sexual relations with older women are more likely to father a child during their teenage years. Furthermore, the number of sexual partners that a teenager has also increased their inclination to becoming a teen parent. Among the girls, 37% of those who have more than three sexual partners are likely to become pregnant while only 18% of boys are set to become fathers in their teenage years.
Teen pregnancies have massive impacts on both the teenage mother and the baby. As indicated by the Sedgh, Finer, Bankole, Eilers, and Singh (2015), most adolescent mothers are forced to drop out of school to take care of their children. A considerable majority of youths who become parents during their teenage years complete their education. Research by Shuger (2012) shows that only 63% of adolescents who gave birth turning 18 receive their GED or got their high school diploma compared to 85% of women who give birth in their late 20s. One-third of the girls who drop out of high school blame it on pregnancy or having to undertake parenthood roles at a young age. Given that most of them rarely go back to school after dropping out, less than 5% of teenage mothers complete two years of their university studies. Given that a majority of them lack enough training and skills to get a job, they are forced to live in poverty as they do not have any job to make their ends meet. Furthermore, teen pregnancies impose a significant burden on the entire society. Whereas millions of families in America struggle with the economic and emotional hardships that result from unplanned pregnancies, teen pregnancy imposes a significant financial burden on the entire society. According to Sedgh, et al. (2015), teen pregnancy costs American taxpayers approximately $11 billion every year. Unlike the women who choose to delay motherhood, teenage mothers tend to receive financial assistance over a more extended period.
Children of teen mothers often experience numerous health and developmental issues. Given the fact that they are more unlikely to get the prenatal care that they need, children to teenage mothers face numerous health risks. According to Shuger (2012), 25% of teen pregnancies often end in preterm birth. At the same time, these babies are more likely to be born with a low birth weight and experience more hospitalizations than those who are born to older mothers. Incidence of infant mortality are also prevalent among children born to mothers under the age of 20 with more than 10 deaths in every 1,000 babies born to these women. While a significant number of these children live beyond their infant stage, a majority of them are abused and neglected than those born to mothers who delayed birth until they got to their late 20s. According to Shuger (2012), most of them are less likely to receive appropriate health care, nutrition, and the necessary social and cognitive incentives. Furthermore, most of them are bound to endure a life of poverty since their mothers are unemployed and unmarried. They are more likely to develop behavioral problems and have lower academic and intellectual achievement. There is also a substantial risk that children born to teenage mothers would end up becoming teenage parents themselves.
Section Two: Intervention/Action Plan
- Objectives and Goals
The primary intention of this intervention and action plan is to increase awareness about the impacts of teen pregnancy in the American society. It is only by making the public aware of this issue that a permanent solution that would reduce and ultimately eradicate the societal issue can be found. It is important to ensure that all members of the society are aware of this problem, including parents, educators, and the teenagers themselves that issues of teenage sexuality and pregnancy can be addressed. The goal of is to ensure that teenagers are provided with scientifically accurate information and sexual education programs. The ultimate goal is to reduce incidences of teen pregnancy and to improve teen sexual health in the United States.
- Action Plan
The outlined goals can only be attained through establishing numerous partnerships in both the education sector and community institutions. Given the high incidences of teenage pregnancies in the United States, it is evident that the abstinence-only sexuality programs are not as effective in discouraging sexual relations among young people as it was initially thought. The attempt to withhold real information from the young people in an effort at discouraging them from engaging in sexual activities during their teenage years has failed despite the fact that the United States spends billions of dollars supporting such programs. Instead of denying them such information, it is the high time that the society embraced measures that are set to confront the problem. It is about time that adolescents were given access to scientifically and medically correct information on their sexual experiences as it is the only way through which they will be able to make sound decisions regarding these aspects of their lives. Additionally, they should be made aware of the various forms of contraceptives that are available as well as all other forms of reproductive health care. The society should be more accepting of the fact that teenagers do engage in sexual relations as it is the only way through which they would overcome the stigma associated with teen sexual expression. By perceiving adolescent sexual relations as a normal occurrence, the society would be able to embrace new ways of addressing the issue as a normal and healthy part of their teenage developmental process. Furthermore, the more the public accepts teenage sexual relations, the easier it will become to engage in candid public health media campaigns aimed at addressing the issue of teen pregnancy and how the youth can be assisted in preventing and dealing with the problem. Moreover, accepting the fact that teenagers engage in sexual relations despite the abstinence-only program that the government will be willing to support the need to accord teenagers the right to access accurate sexual information and other confidential sexual health services.
- Organization Strategies
- Organize teenage sexual health workshops: Community organization should embrace a more practical approach to the teen pregnancy issue. By introducing adolescents to more comprehensive programs on sexual education, these organization will be giving them the power make better choices on sex and the rest of their lives. It is vital to provide teenagers with increased access to birth control and to promote responsible behavior. Such programs would be instrumental in making the teenager understand that sexual experimentation is a normal part of their sexual development and that they have the power to control what happens when they decide to partake in such relations.
- Introduce after-school programs: Various community organizations could partner to set up after-school programs that will ensure that the teenagers are engaged in different activities after school and that they interact with positive role models. Studies show that young people are more likely to participate in sexual activities if they have more unsupervised hours on their school days. Therefore, establishing such programs will be instrumental in keeping the teenagers occupied and instilling in them proper decision-making skills.
- Involving the teenagers: The only way through which the goals of this intervention plan can be accomplished is by engaging the teenage population. It is imperative that the adolescents are offered with all the information and support that they need to make the best decisions about their sexual lives. Given that the programs are aimed at addressing the issue of teenage pregnancy, all those between the ages of 13 and 19 should be encouraged to partake in such programs.
- Tracking the success of the programs: Establishing a system that would closely monitor and report the success of the community programs is fundamental to determining the effectiveness of these measures. There is also need to carefully observe the teenagers to assess the progress or failures of these actions.
- Good listening and observation skills: While it is often considered to be a daunting task, teenagers easily open up to those who are capable of listening and recalling the information that they have offered to show them that one understands their circumstances and what they are going through. By having these skills, it would be easier to get through to the teenagers as it will be easier to develop a sense of respect for one another. Furthermore, good listening skills will be fundamental in making the teenagers believe that the professional understand them irrespective of the image they show to all those around them.
- Empathy: Being empathetic will make it easy for the professionals to relate to the experiences that the teenagers are going through by developing a connection to their views, feelings, and personal experiences. Through this, they will be able to achieve more than just be concerned about what the teenagers are going through, hence, offer them support others compassionately and sensitively.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America considers teen pregnancy to be a current problem that needs to be addressed immediately. In this regard, the time frame for this action plan is to reduce teen pregnancy to less than 2% by 2022. Within this five-year period, it is essential to carefully monitor incidences of teen pregnancy on a biannual and annual basis. The best way through which this can be done is using the community organization, schools, and surveying the number of teenagers that give birth in hospitals.
- Cultural Awareness
The success of this intervention and action plan is highly dependent on recognizing and accepting the fact that teenagers engage in sexual relations and experimentations whether they receive the relevant sexual education or not. Therefore, the community organizations and other institutions that are involved in this action plan should be willing to engage in all processes possible to ensure that the programs work. They should also be open to the possibility that the teenagers might not adhere to all programs, hence, should be flexible enough to embrace programs and activities that befit the population. Furthermore, these organizations should be ready for resistance given the fact that the entire society is not open to teenage sexual relations. It is only by being liberal and progressive that the organizer and all other community organizations will be able to deal with any challenges that they might encounter while advocating for more open sexual education programs in the United States.
Section Three: Conclusion
Given the prevalence of teen pregnancies in the United States, focusing on the factors that lead to such incidences is necessary for coming up with concrete strategies that would assist in addressing the issue. While researching this paper, it was evident that even though teenage pregnancy remains to be a significant societal issue in the United States, both the government and other relevant social institutions are reluctant to put in place measures that would address the issue in totality. At the same time, I learned that a culturally competent intervention involves the entire society and that its success is highly dependent on the willingness to address any issues that might arise from the community. In practice, I will use the skills that I have gained through this exercise to engage in various social and community programs that are aimed at determining and uprooting issues that affect a portion of or the entire society.
Cook, S. M., & Cameron, S. T. (2015). Social issues of teenage pregnancy. Obstetrics, Gynaecology & Reproductive Medicine, 25(9), 243-248.
Kost, Kathryn, and Stanley Henshaw. (2012). U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortion, 2008: National Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute.
Sedgh, G., Finer, L. B., Bankole, A., Eilers, M. A., & Singh, S. (2015). Adolescent pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates across countries: levels and recent trends. Journal of Adolescent Health, 56(2), 223-230.
Shuger, Lisa. (2012). Teen Pregnancy and High School Dropout: What Communities are doing to Address These Issues. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and America’s Promise Alliance
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