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Teenage pregnancy has been a great problem in developed countries in the past three decades. With Great Britain being the leader in the number of teenage unwanted pregnancy statistics, while all the policies and tools, learning and education systems are in place, there is a need to examine the main reasons for the tendency from the psychological perspective. It would be foolish to assume that there were no cases of unmarried sex and pregnancies hundreds of years ago, however, today, this is more accepted than ever before. Although no parents want their daughters to be single mothers at the age of 16, it happens to millions of teenagers every single day, and this includes girls from good families and secure backgrounds, as well as girls less fortunate.
According to Boonstra, there are two different reasons for the impressive statistics changes. One of them is that more teenage girls avoid sexual relationships in their teens, and the other one is the more advanced, reliable and convenient contraception methods. The previous survey created by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that abstinence as a contributing factor had a 25 percent influence on the statistics, while the other 75 percent was due to the improved sexual behavior patterns of experienced teens. Still, the main contributing factor was the increased use of contraception, and – while in the 70-s girls would have been more influenced by their partner not to use contraception – today, girls are more assertive and many of them would like to start a career. Some of the young girls choose to build a career before they would commit to a long term relationship, and they are aware that getting pregnant would restrict their opportunities.
Today’s teenagers are more open to contraception than young girls in the 70-s or 80-s. While for many young girls it is important to build a career, this motivation should be strengthened by the government, by providing training and development opportunities for teenagers. According to Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, (in: Boonstra, 2002), the responsibility of local communities and agencies is huge, and youth development programs should be created to engage teenagers in productive and fulfilling activities.
The Importance of Parental Attitude
Still, the rate of teenage births did decline at a slower rate in the US than in other developed countries. Researchers were eager to find out why, and this is why a further study was concluded. The study found that teen pregnancies were more common in disadvantaged families, therefore, concluded that as the US has a high proportion of these communities, the decline is slower. As the US has the highest percentage of population considered poor, the statistics were showing these differences. However, it is interesting to learn more about the connection between social / family background and teenage pregnancies. Although many parents talk more openly about their own relationships, some of them find it hard to have regular conversations with their teenage children about sexual topics.
Society's Attitudes toward Sexuality
The main reason behind the lower rate decline is that while in Canada and developed European countries pregnancy is associated with responsibilities and adulthood, this metaphorical connection is weaker in the American society. Although sexual relationships between the ages of 15 and 18 are present in developed European countries, the government encourages teens to wait until a committed relationship is established before initiating sexual intercourse. In the US, however, the opposite happens, and sexual relationships mainly occur during short term relationships.
As there are government sponsored initiatives, programs regarding sexual education, preventing unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and healthy relationships in the countries used for comparison purposes (Canada, Sweden, France, England and Wales), teenagers are more aware of their options.
As there were a higher number of teenage pregnancies in the 80-s than today, there are clear indications that teenage girls see being a single mum as normal. With the high number of divorces in the US, a large proportion of teenagers grow up without one parent being present. This does make teenagers think that it is simple to live alone and have children. The worse the upbringing and relationship with parents is, the more likely the child is to try and disengage from its family. Finding a new person they can belong to would provide temporary comfort emotionally; however, it would result in unwanted pregnancy without effective guidance and advice from an authority figure.
Teenagers’ Awareness of Sexuality
The importance of access to family planning services is also high. The availability of contraception is better in the UK, France and Sweden than the US, and paying full cost does put off many teenagers from using contraception. As the education system is based on promotion abstinence, instead of prevention, teenagers do not feel that they are supported through their transition to adulthood. Teenagers are often not aware of the consequences of sexuality, and they think that it is normal to commit sexually, even if they are emotionally not ready. Programs in the USA focus on abstinence, instead of providing practical advice for contraception, and with a limited availability of pregnancy clinics, teenagers are unable to see their contraception and relationship options clearly.
Comfort Level with Sexual Topics
The government’s campaign promoting responsible behavior and discouraging teenage girls from having sex does not seem to solve the problem. The promotion of marriage is not aimed at 15-18 year old girls. These girls would like to gain experience and would only like to stay out of trouble. It is the government’s responsibility to give them relevant information and education to experience sexuality while staying safe. Disallowing sexual intercourse does not seem to be the right approach, and the example of developed European countries has shown that sexual activity is accepted, while parents and schools emphasize the weight of responsibility. Teenagers are confident in most areas of sexual intercourse; however, they are unable to carefully evaluate the risks between the ages of 15 and 18.