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The Emotional and Social Effects of Teen Pregnancy

Mishael is a health and wellness junkie. She loves learning about things that will keep her family happier. And all other people too.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

The Problem of Teen Pregnancy

Nearly one million teens find themselves pregnant every year, and about 40% of all young women in the United States will experience at least one pregnancy before their 20th birthday (Teenage pregnancy statistics gleaned from Facts in Brief: Teen Sex and Pregnancy, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, New York, 1996).

While society tends to glamorize teen pregnancy (think Secret Life of the American Teenager, MTV's Sixteen and Pregnant , Juno, and the recent celebrity of teen mom Bristol Palin), the reality is far from spectacular.

I'm certainly not suggesting that we should ostracize young, single girls who become pregnant, as the Puritans did in the 17th century, but we also should not celebrate teen pregnancy as a goal that every young woman should try to achieve.

Why? Simply because teen pregnancy can be very painful and difficult for everyone involved.

A human embryo at about eight weeks gestation. This is about the time of the first prenatal visit. The baby's heart is already beating, and you can already see the baby's eye, arms, and legs start to form.

A human embryo at about eight weeks gestation. This is about the time of the first prenatal visit. The baby's heart is already beating, and you can already see the baby's eye, arms, and legs start to form.

CBS News Discussion of Teen Pregnancy Pact

The Harm to the Mother

Many teenage girls are terrified when they find out they are pregnant, unless they happen to have made a pregnancy pact, as did the girls discussed in this CBS News video.

They often don't know who to turn to. Most don't want to admit to their parents that they got pregnant, especially if their parents are particularly strict. And many may be rejected by their boyfriends if they try to talk to them about the pregnancy.

This feeling that there is nowhere to go and no one to turn to is often what causes many young women to run to the nearest abortion clinic as soon as they find out they're expecting. And if the girl doesn't choose to do that, then she is faced with a number of difficult decisions. Will she keep the baby or put it up for adoption? Will she finish school or drop out? If she does decide to keep the baby, how will she support it if she doesn't finish school? But the emotional costs of the pregnancy pale in comparison to what the physical costs could be.

Girls who get pregnant at an especially young age are at a much higher risk or running into complications simply because their bodies are not yet developed enough to support growing another life. Pregnancy is not exactly easy on any woman's body, but it can be especially difficult for a teen's.

And the fact that many teens are embarrassed about their condition or afraid of their parents' reactions may prevent some from seeking good prenatal care. This can lead to health problems for the pregnant mother like high blood pressure and anemia, and these maternal health problems could cause problems for the baby.

Some States Require an Ultrasound Before Abortion. Does Yours?

Abortion Definition

Abortion: Induced termination of pregnancy, involving destruction of the embryo or fetus.

Most states in the United States allow a mother to have an abortion up until about 20-24 weeks into gestation.


20-week Ultrasound Image

Source: Ben Askins on Flickr

Source: Ben Askins on Flickr

The Harm to the Father

Often, the ones who are getting the teenage girls pregnant are teenage boys. These boys seldom consider the consequences of their actions. They just focus on the feel-good aspect of sex. When confronted with the fact that they have created a new life, many will feel overwhelmed and may try to run from the situation. This break in the relationship could be painful for both young parents.

Those who don't run are faced with the very real task of taking care of an unplanned family. The father of a child is responsible for child support in every state in the nation. Because of this increased responsibility, many young men may feel pressured to marry the young pregnant woman, and this could also cause problems for the couple. Pressure and guilt are not good feelings with which to begin any relationship, let alone one that is supposed to last a lifetime. The feeling of being pressured into a marriage could lead to feelings of resentment later for both parties.

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At least 60 percent of teen marriages end in divorce within 5 years ("Teenage Couples: Caring, Change, and Commitment", by Jeanne Warren Lindsay). Divorce hurts everyone involved, including the child that was the reason the parents got married in the first place. Children often feel responsible when their parents get divorced, and knowing that their mom and dad only got married because mom was pregnant with him/her may cause those guilt feelings to be even stronger.


The Harm to the Baby

As noted above, teen mothers often do not receive good prenatal care. As a result of this, they may not gain enough weight during their pregnancies. This lack of weight gain can cause the baby to have a low birth weight, which is associated with all sorts of problems, like developmental disorders and even a high rate of infant death.

Babies born to teen mothers are often malnourished and have limited access to decent health care. They rarely receive adequate social or cognitive stimulation. This can negatively impact their intellectual development and can lead to poor school performance later on.

Further, studies have shown that children born to teen mothers experience higher rates of abuse and neglect and often turn to crime as a way of expressing themselves and getting what they want. These children often experience troubled romantic relationships when they are older, and girls born to teen mothers are very likely to become teen mothers themselves, thus repeating the destructive pattern.

Some Teen Pregnancy Resources

The Harm to the Grandparents

Parents who receive the news that their teenage daughter (or son) is going to have a baby may feel a whole range of emotions: shock, denial, rage, and even joy that they are going to be grandparents.

But grandparents of babies born to teen mothers may also have some difficult decisions to make. How willing are they to be involved in raising the baby? Do they want their daughters and sons to continue with their schooling? If this is the case, a lot of the early child care responsibilities may fall to the grandparents.

The grandparents may also feel obligated to provide financial help, and while this might not be a bad short-term plan, the financial involvement needs to be monitored closely. The baby's mother and father may become dependent on this financial support, and it will be harder for them to learn how to support themselves and their new family.

Whatever they do, grandparents need to be supportive of both mom and dad because this is a scary situation for everyone. They also need to remember that it is not the baby's fault that this has happened, so they shouldn't take their anger out on their grandchild.

It may be difficult at times to be the only adult in such an adult situation, so grandparents need to be prepared to guide their children in their premature assumption of adult responsibility in order to keep the whole family together.

Let's Get Personal

How Can Teen Pregnancy Be Avoided?

As bleak a picture as this hub presents of teen pregnancy, it is important to remember that this is just an example of what could happen. Many teen moms do really well for themselves and their children, with or without the support of the baby's father.

Still, it is a shame that so many young women and men are forced into assuming such an adult responsibility so early in life. It would be a good idea to teach our daughters and sons the truth about sex and the consequences it can bring. It may also be necessary to restrict their dating to public places with trusted chaperones, so that they will not be alone, where temptation can be acted upon. Teens who are not ever alone together are much less likely to have sex; therefore, they will not have to grow up too fast. They can take the time to be children themselves.


Jason B Truth from United States of America on September 09, 2017:

Mishael? One thing that really baffles me about this subject is that there are people who actually believe that when a girl gets married at 14 or 15 years old to a young man in his twenties, she is likely to become a teenage welfare mom. However, when I was working in a social services agency, I found that it was quite the opposite. The teenage girls in Loretta-Lynn-style marriages were the ones who were able to steer clear of public assistance. It was the ones whose same-age boyfriends impregnated them and then bailed on them that ended up on welfare. I never encourage anyone to get married before they're 18 years old, and I don't deny the fact that our society frowns upon adult men over 21 years of age marrying teenage girls who are not yet legally old enough to vote. However, shouldn't state legislators be seeking to pass laws to go after deadbeat teenage fathers instead of outlawing teenage minors from getting married at all? When I worked at a social services agency, my biggest concern was that too many adolescent boys were getting girls pregnant before these girls were even old enough to drive and then bailing on these girls. Then these boys would do the same thing to some other girl. This gets me furious.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on October 28, 2012:

This is not a blame game. The girl and the boy are (usually, except in the case of rape) both equal partners in this. It takes two to have sex. He can't make the decision not to sleep with the girl, or to take the responsibility to put on a condom or make sure that she's on birth control?

Teen pregnancy is not anyone's "fault." It's the real result of some hasty decisions that lead to some major consequences. You might want to rethink your position, shaequan.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on July 16, 2012:

Hi, prairieprincess. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you liked it! :-)

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on July 15, 2012:

This is an excellent article that points out the reality behind the glamour. I am glad that we don't ostracize young girls anymore but we should not take it so far as to glorify it, either. It is so true that many are effected including the baby whose care may be compromised. Thanks for writing. Voted up and more.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on December 12, 2011:

Thanks, Mike. I agree!

Mike on December 11, 2011:

Thank goodness for you and this hub, it is hard to find any good information about teenage pregnancy on the internet that does not just talk about how to deal with one. Young adults often have no idea about the power of human sexuality, and the difficulties it can bring.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on September 28, 2011:

Hi, Prickly Flower. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

Prickly Flower from Netherlands on September 28, 2011:

Great hub, clearly outlining the problems teen parents may have to face. I was a teen mother myself (even though I was using contraceptives) and I was lucky to be able to finish school and go to college with the help of my family, my friends and my teachers and my son's father.

Sex education is very important I think. It is very important that teens learn how to cope with everything related to sex. Not just the technicalities, but also how to withstand peer pressure, how to wait until they feel save and sure about the person they are going to sleep with. When they can talk freely about that, they often feel less inclined to succumb to pressure put upon them by others.

Not sure chaperoning would really work though. Teens have ways to work around that and in the area where I live, teen pregnancy occurs the most in the most strict communities.

I totally agree that the glamourising of teen pregnancy is a very bad thing. Even though I wouldn't have had it any other way myself, I would not recommend it to anyone. It has brought me great joy and made me finally realise I had to start thinking about the future and stop being a moping teen, but it has also denied me of many opportunities and I missed certain things in my development to an adult I feel.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on June 29, 2011:

Thanks very much! :-)

Heidi from Gulf Coast, USA on June 29, 2011:

Voted useful and up! Great hub... good suggestion.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on June 25, 2011:

Hmm ... Computerized babies? I never experienced that. Must be new.

As for REALLY teaching you what it's like to be a mother, I don't think classroom teachers could legally do that. They'd be brought up on charges of child abuse, assault and battery, and all sorts of things!

The black mist from united states on June 24, 2011:

yes sex ed. should be taught in schools but when i was in middle school i found out that they don't do that in the high schools, why? idk... but they should, yes they stick you with a computerized baby that cry's every 20 minutes but that is just to teach you or at least try to teach you what its like to be a mother.

Even then babies don't cry every 20 minutes i would know i helped raise my baby cousins.

the point is some schools will actually care to teach sex ed. and some school don't but, everything always begins at home.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on June 17, 2011:

Thanks, James.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on June 15, 2011:

Um, yes. It definitely is one of the problems. That's why I wrote this hub.

1stPhotoInvites on June 15, 2011:

This is actually one of the problems in the US.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on May 29, 2011:

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Denise. It's such a shame that teen pregnancy rates were on a 10-year decline until about 2006, then they started rising again. Some news stories have suggested, though, that MTV's Sixteen and Pregnant is actually encouraging another decline!

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on May 28, 2011:

When I was a young mother of a toddler and infant the tiny newspaper that was delivered to our community ran a story about how the planned parenthood clinic was being closed. However, in that community the number of teen pregnancies and welfare mothers was staggering. I wrote a long letter to the editor which was published in its entirety, stating similar points that were in defense of Sex Education. Teen pregnancies are never a benefit, in my opinion. And, although the baby may in itself be a blessing, the effects of the pregnancy on all parties is a far reaching tragedy overall.

Well written hub. Thanks for sharing!

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on May 28, 2011:

Nate: Sorry it's taken me so long to respond! Yes, the ostracizing does continue to a certain degree, although I don't think it's as widespread as it was in Puritan times. The glamorizing aspect seems to be taking over now. What we need is a balance between the two!

Jacob: Thanks for your comments. I do agree to an extent that sex education should continue in schools, but it needs to be taught at home, too. Far too often, parents leave all the most important things to be taught by the teachers when they need to be telling their children themselves. And I agree that peer teaching is also important - as long as it is done with wisdom (I never got much wise peer teaching when I was that age!). The only solution for parents is to start talking to their children about sex early - when they're still listening!

NateSean from Salem, MA on March 20, 2011:

Very good points and excellent hub. Although I should point out that the ostracizing of teen parents is still going on as strongly today as it was in the 17th century.

Of course you've definitely made that point pretty clear, especially in mentioning the poor prenatal health care.

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on March 04, 2011:

I'm glad you enjoyed the hub, phoenixarizona, and thank you for commenting. It's nice to get a perspective from someone who was a teen mom. I was not, thank goodness. I don't think I would've been a very good one!

I certainly didn't mean to imply that teens who get pregnant are bad people. I don't believe that at all. I really just wanted to get the message across that having a baby is difficult for anyone, but can be especially so for someone so young. Teenage girls should be running around having fun and planning their own future, not worrying about how they're going to support another human being for the rest of their life!

phoenixarizona from Australia on March 03, 2011:

Hi workingmomwm. I appreciate you writing this fantastic hub! I personally am (or should I say was?) a teenage mother. I was treated rather cruelly by my parents and was expected to just go out, find a place to live and support my child. I resented that back then, now I am greatful for it. My child is now ten, has never been abused or neglected and when asked if she would like to have children she says "not until I have a good job and have seen the world first." Hopefully this mantra will stay true for the next six years and the only announcement she will make in that time is "I passed my exams!"

Your hub is truly wonderful and I hope that this will prevent any future teen pregnancies. Not because the teenagers getting pregnant are bad people but because the life of a teenage mother is a difficult one.

Thankyou for writing such an informative hub!

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on February 21, 2011:

Thanks for reading, cold hearted.

cold hearted on February 21, 2011:

i think i have benefited from this issue . and thank you for the info

Mishael Austin Witty (author) from Kentucky, USA on January 23, 2011:

Thanks for reading, glassvisage. Glad you enjoyed it.

glassvisage from Northern California on January 23, 2011:

This is a very interesting and scientific look at this issue, and I think that the facts that you have provided are very convincing. Thank you for this Hub and for sharing this information.

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