How can education help reduce or prevent teenage pregnancy?

Review of the literature:

Social Support, Race and Culture

According to Danawi, Bryant and Hasbini (2016), the lack of a social support system in low income areas is a great enabler of teenage pregnancies. Children find that they have no one to guide them, thereby frequently making ill – informed life decisions, such as having children early. Closely related with the social structure is the cultural and racial background of the teenage parents. As the CDC (2016) notes, there is a strong correlation between the issue of teenage pregnancies and race. African American and Hispanic communities experience higher rates of teenage pregnancies, which are not as pronounced in non Hispanic whites. In other cases, particular families find it uncomfortable to effectively communicate to their children, the dangers of teenage pregnancies (Rabin, 2015).

Economic Status and Access to Education

In the United States, access to quality education is closely tied to the economic status of the household. As a result, children who are born into low income families are unlikely to have a good education. At the same time, poorly educated teenagers have been found to have higher chances of getting pregnant after they drop out of school early (CDC, 2016). Domenico and Jones (2007) also point out that, the outcomes from education are highly dependent on the economic status of the learners. Therefore, children who have poor and brief education are more likely to get pregnant early, and since they will likely be condemned to the same socio-economic status as their parents, the cycle is perpetuated.

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Sex Education and Contraception

Several researchers and experts in the field have spoken in favor of sex education as an effective control mechanism in teenage pregnancies. For instance, McKeon (2006) cites research in showing that some programs are not as effective as others in preventing childhood pregnancies. He particularly cites abstinence – only programs, which do not equip the children with any practical skills on how to prevent pregnancies, other than shunning sexual activity. Instead, according to McKeon, the children should be exposed to sex education that is comprehensive, and involves all stakeholders including medical organizations, parents, and the society within which the teenagers live. This point is echoed by others, including Planned Parenthood (n.d.), which is in favor of evidence – based approach to sex education. Such an education will be important in showing that sexual is not a negative thing, but a legitimate activity by healthy humans, which should be done responsibly.

Parents have an important role to play in teaching their children about sex in an accurate and objective manner (Rabin, 2015). According to Health Day (2008), children who are exposed to comprehensive and accurate sex education are 60 times less likely to become pregnant, when compared to those who are given abstinence only or no sex education at all. Contraception is also a dependable tool in reducing teenage pregnancies. According to Langille (2007), medical personnel such as personal doctors have an important role to play in helping teenagers understand the repercussions of teenage pregnancies, and advising them on the uses of contraceptives to ensure that this does not happen. However, the decision to use contraceptives is also deeply rooted in religious and societal beliefs, as well as the nature of sex education that teenagers receive.

Discussion

According to the review of literature above, teenage pregnancy is a result of several factors, many of which are related to each other. For instance, the correlation between race, culture, poverty and education is strong. People of minority age groups are less likely to afford a quality education, and will therefore be exposed to a sex education that is ineffective, or in other cases, nonexistent. Some cultures shun sex talk since they see it as an encouragement for teenagers to have sex. This attitude however means that the children have no other way of finding out about sexual expression, apart from trying it out themselves. In many ill-fated cases, this results in pregnancy, potentially ruining the lives of young girls.

Cultural and religious beliefs also make it impossible to conduct effective sex education. They preach abstinence at any cost, with the result being that the children are equipped with skills that are hardly helpful in the real world. By additionally preventing them from accessing contraceptives, these societies may feel that they are protecting their children, but they are in fact setting them up for failure. Lack of statistical data from different communities and states within the US however means that the some of the statistics highlighted above may not be accurate, though they show the general tendency of different variables.

The US leads in the Western Industrialized world in terms of teenage pregnancies and consequently, the number of female students who drop out of school. This indicates a profound problem that is not only economic, or related to the demographics of the US. Rather, the issues are mainly attributable to the availability and nature of sex education, as well as societal attitudes towards contraception.

Conclusion

There are several reasons why teenagers become pregnant. The reasons are sometimes complex – tied to race, economic ability, culture, and social support. In most other cases though, it is a matter of quality health education and the ability of stakeholders to come together and equip teenagers with necessary skills to navigate the challenging area of sexual awareness.

According to the review of literature presented above, the nature of sex education is a key contributor in determining whether teenagers become pregnant or not. Research has shown that when the education is comprehensive, and is a collaborative exercise between the different stakeholders, the changes of successfully preventing teenage pregnancies significantly go up. However, education that is only focused on abstinence is likely to result in anything meaningful, in terms of helping teenagers avoid pregnancy.

Teenagers who become pregnant are sometimes victims of the societal ideals and values they find. For instance, the literature has decried the dangers of parents being unable to constructively engage their teenage children on the subject of sexual relations. Parents may not be prepared to talk about it, or they may feel it is culturally wrong. This only serves to expose the children to heightened risk of pregnancy, due to lack of the necessary skills to navigate inter-gender relations.

Societal and cultural values, including religion, may frown upon the use of contraceptives, and the exposure of teenagers to comprehensive sex education. The literature implies that sex education can only be expected to be effective when it is accompanied by responsible use of contraceptives. Lack access to either or both of the tools means that the teenagers will be ill – equipped to avoid teenage pregnancies.

 

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Reproductive Health: Teen Pregnancy Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from www.cdc.gov/teenage pregnancy/about

Danawi, H., Bryant, Z., & Hasbini, T. (2016). Targeting unintended teenage pregnancy in the U.S.International Journal of Childbirth Education. 31(1), 28-31.

Domenico, D. M. & Jones, K. H. (2007). Adolescent pregnancy in America: Causes and Responses.The Journal of Vocational Special Needs Education.30(1), 1-12.

HealthDay: (2008). Sex ed can help prevent teen pregnancy. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com(Accessed 20th April 2017)

Langille, D. B. (2007). Teenage pregnancy: trends, contributing factors and the physician’s role.

McKeon, B. (2006). Effective sex education. Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from www.advocatesforyouth.org

Planned Parenthood. (n.d.). Reducing teenage pregnancy. Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from www.plannedparenthood.org

Rabin, R. C. (2015). Why parents should have the “sex talk” with their children. Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from

http://www.well.blogs.nytimes.com