Sociologist Frank Furstenberg and his colleagues Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Phillip Morgan have done an important study of teenage pregnancy that gives essential informationon its effects on the mother and her child. The study is particularly impressive because they recently followed up the women and their children in 1984, 17 years after the women were initially interviewed while pregnant in 1966-1967. There were approximately 400 respondents, most of them black, all of them initially residing in Baltimore.
Furstenberg and his colleagues concluded that although there are many negative consequences to teenage childbearing, the negative consequences have been exaggerated and there has not been enough attention paid to those who, despite the odds against them, nonetheless manage to cope and succeed.
Let's focus first on the findings for the mothers. When they were first followed up 5 years after the pregnancy, they looked very disadvantaged. For example, 49 percent had not graduated from high school. Approximately one- third of them were on welfare at some point during the 17 years of the study. However, by the time of the 1984 follow-up an impressive proportion of women had staged аsubstantial recovery. At that point, an additional 38 percent had graduated from high school, an additional 25 percent had some education beyond high school, and 5 percent had graduated from college. Of those who had been on welfare at some time during the study, two-thirds had managed to get off it by 1984; 67 percent were employed, and fully а quarter had incomes in excess of 25 thousand dollars per year.
The study shows clearly that there is great diversity in the outcomes for adolescent mothers. Some remain locked in poverty for the rest of their lives, whereas others manage to succeed despite their circumstances. Furstenberg and his colleagues feel it is important to understand the routes to success that some women find. The most important factor is differential resources. Women with more educated parents who have more income tend to do better because they have more resources.The second most important factor is competence and motivation. Those women who were doing well in school at the time of the pregnancy and had high educational aspirations were more likely to do well following the birth. А third factor is intervention programs such as special schools for pregnant teenagers and hospital intervention programs. When these programs are successful, they help the women complete high school and postpone other births, two factors that are crucial to recovering from the adverse circumstances of а teenage pregnancy. If there are additional births locked out of the job market , but she can successfully build а career if she has only one child to manage.
Turning now to the children, the results indicate that they are at risk in many ways. At birth, 11 percent were low birth weight (2500 grams or less), which puts them at risk for а variety of their problems. However, it seems that the express of low -birth-weight babies is more а function of the adequacy or inadequacy of medical care during pregnancy than it is а function of the mother being а teenager. By 1984 the school record showed evidence of academic failure and behaviour problems. Half of the children had had to repeat at least one grade. Thirty-five percent had had to bring their parents to school in the last year because of а behavioral problem, and 44 percent had been suspended or expelled in the past 5 years. The study sample was also more sexually active than randomly chosen national samples. By age 16, 78 percent had engaged in sexual intercourse. By age 17, 26 percent of the girls reported having been pregnant. Thus the cycle of teen pregnancy and poverty tends to permate itself.
Teenage pregnancy in the United States is а serious problem, both because of the large numbers of people affected and because the consequences can be so serious. What can be done?
The strategy of Furstenberg and his colleagues is to look at the success stories-those women who manage to rise out of poverty to make successful and happy lives for themselves. Once the factors were crucial to their success are identified, social programs can be designed to provide similar resourcesor experiences to more teenage mothers, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty and teen pregnancy. Two critical factors to success, for example, are finishing high school (and preferably getting even more education) and postponing other births. Social programs need to be set up to assist adoloscent mothers ih finishing high school (including special schools for pregnant teenagers, and child care for mothers while attending school). Information on and access to contraception is essential. Programs such as Head Start that help prepare these children for school aare critical, because they are at risk for academic failure. Marriage to а man with some financial resources was also а route to success for some women in this study. However, the high rate of unemployment among young, black, urban men makes such marriages less likely. This point out the importance of social programs aimed at males as well as females.
In summary, teenage pregnancy is а serious problem, but not unsolvable one. By studying those women who stage а recovery from the experience, we can gain important insights into how we can break the cycle of poverty and teen pregnancy.
А LIST OF LITERATURE:
1.Colman,Libby L. and A.D.Pregnancy:The Psyhological Experiennce. Rev. Ed. Noonday,1991.
2.Hales, Dianne R. Pregnancy and Birth. Chelsea Hse.,1989.
3.Janet Shibley Hyde. Understanding Human Sexuality; 1994. 5th ed.
4.Kitzinger, Shiela. Being Born. Grosset, 1986.
5.Sociology: An Introduction/Michael S. Bassis-4th ed.;1991.
6.Sociology/Richard T. Schaufer. Robert P. Lamm-6th ed.;1998
7.Society/Ely Chinoy-Random House,-New York