No teenage parents should be left behind
Statistics can be so alarming. Every year, more than a million teenagers in the US become pregnant (Scholl, 2007, p. 28). Out of these figures, 95% are unintended and 40 – 50% of these result in live birth (Scholl, 2007, p. 28; Sieger & Renk, 2007, p. 567). However, what’s more alarming than statistics is stereotyping, which is a big contributing factor to the way society views teenage parents. Through this narrow prism, they are relegated into a box with a label that says ‘poor parents.’ But this well-entrenched stereotype – teenagers are poor parents – needs to be exposed for what it is: a skewed image that does not reflect current realities. Teenagers, in contrary to old popular belief, can be good parents.
First of all, age is not an indicator of being a good or poor parent. It is not true that school-aged parents are “ruining their own and their children’s future prospects” (Mollborn, 2007, p.92) because of their inability to pursue their education in order to get a better-paying job and thus, be able to provide well for their child. While it may be easy to look upon teenage parenthood as a reason for dropping out of school, Mollborn (2007) says that “becoming a (teenage) parent does not cause school dropout, but rather, preexisting socio-economic and other factors cause both parenthood and dropout”(p. 93).
Teenage parents these days do not remain unschooled, unmoved, or uninspired by the situation (Life in the Fast Lane, 2008). In fact, a high school student from Los Angeles, California who got pregnant while still enrolled continued to pursue her dream of taking a college course claiming that “because I have a daughter, I need those opportunities even more” (The Rights of Teen Parents, 2006).
Secondly, opportunities and challenges can transform teenage parents into good parents who consider the child while making good choices in life. They may choose to continue with their studies, or get a job, or do both at the same time. They may also choose to focus raising their child first and continue their studies later. Or they may explore other options with the well-being of their child foremost in their mind. Because of these challenges, teenagers “grow up” and take on their responsibilities while accepting their limitations (Leadbeater & Way, 2001; Stevens, 1995-1996; cited in Larson, 2004, 473).
Most interestingly, teenage parents can be good parents with the help of various public and private entities. Gone are the days when a pregnant teenager is stigmatized (Renk and Sieger, 2007, p 578). While the situation is far from ideal and will not be trumpeted as a role model to school-age individuals, the Americans have been accepting, if not understanding. Pregnant and parenting adolescents can seek help from available support in the community, be it their local school, health center, church, and other public and private organizations. Both family- and community-based support groups help teenage parents achieve positive results in meeting the challenge which, in turn, make them good parents.
No doubt, teenage parents face many challenges like their adult counterparts. Teenage parents have a choice to meet challenges head-on and not quit when the going, or parenting, gets tough.
It is time to bury an outdated stereotype about adolescent parents. Today’s teenage parents are more inspired and socially equipped to shatter their image as poor parents. Let “no parent be left behind.”
Larson, N. (2004). Parenting stress among adolescent mothers in the transition to adulthood. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 21(5), 457-476. Retrieved September 2, 2008, from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=788732001&sid=3&Fmt=2&clientId=57020&RQT =309&VName=PQD
Life in the Fast Lane (2008). Produced by Idaho Public Television for the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. Retrieved from http://www.teenageparent.org/english/Engindex.html
Mollborn, S (2007). Making the Best of a Bad Situation: Material Resources and Teenage Parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(1), 92-104. Retrieved September 2, 2008, from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=1231782161&sid=1&Fmt=2&clientId=57020&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Sieger, K. & Renk, K. (2007). Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents: A Study of Ethnic Identity, Emotional and Behavioral Functioning, Child Characteristics, and Social Support. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36(4), 567-581. Retrieved September 2, 2008, from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=1267239711&sid=1&Fmt=2&clientId=57020&RQT=309&VName=PQD