Teenage pregnancies have been a norm in the world history until in the modern era. As world history has it, a school teenage girl was married off as soon as she became pregnant but as time changed, there existed the need to give these teenage girls a second chance to complete their education and achieve their career objectives just like their counterparts who escapes the wrath of earlier pregnancy.
In developed countries, the issue of school teenage girls getting pregnant before completion of studies is becoming alarming as the rates of teen pregnancies increases. Unlike in other parts of the world, these countries have a poor network of helping the teen mothers with their motherly responsibilities. Such networks would include grandmothers, intimate neighborhoods, extended families and working fathers among others. Given the fact that girls just like boys are expected to get a reasonable level of education that would enable them to secure employment in the future, increasing rates of teenage pregnancies is becoming an issue of great importance which needs attention of every actor in the society (Mayfield, Miller, 2004, p.42).
United States is one of the developed countries where there is a high rate of teenage pregnancies recorded. In this context, it has been established that the country as a whole records approximately one million teenage pregnancies each year with at least four in ten teenage girls getting pregnant at least before attaining twenty years of age.
Compared with other developed nations such as Japan, Britain among others, this record is a cause of great concern and needs strategic measures to help drive it down and to help those affected not only to complete their education but also to raise their children normally. In this regard, United States records a high rate of teenage pregnancies compared to other developed nations such as Japan. For example, the teenage pregnancy rate in the country is double that of Great Britain and almost ten times that of Japan (Cohen, 1998, p.33).
Despite the fact that the country experienced a high drop in the rate of teenage pregnancy in 1990s, the rate continues to be substantially high compared to the other nations and the ever changing demographic trends. While this can be seen as a good sign of fruits of measures and efforts put in place, it can not be seen as a deterring fact to address the issue of teenage girl pregnancies which has turned out as a national problem. The total number of pregnancies is projected to increase even further in the next decade given the fact that a high number of baby boom echo children are also entering teenage years.
In regard to teenage girl pregnancies, decline in marriage institution can be seen as a major contributing factor. In the earlier 1960s where various restrictions existed in respect to earlier marriage and sexuality, teenage pregnancy rated at around fifteen percent. From then up to the modern times, the rate of teenage girl pregnancies has been staggering with eighty percent of teen pregnancies been recorded today. In essence, the teen girls are always unprepared and unskilled for earlier parenting responsibilities thus the need for policy makers and other social actors intervention. There is a straightforward reason why the unmarried teen pregnancy rate has increased so dramatically—teens are having more sex, at earlier ages, and without the use of contraceptives. In 1970, 35% of girls and 55% of boys reported having had sex by age eighteen. By 1988, the figures were 56% for girls and 73% for boys. Today, if the data were available, the amount of teen sexual activity undoubtedly would be still higher. This is despite a slight decline over the past few years, reported by some studies, in the stated acceptance of casual sex by young people (http://www.teenpregnancy.org/).
Perhaps one other major reason for an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies over the last couple of years is increased sexual activities among the teenagers. The fact that puberty age is slowly and steadily declining. Despite the fact that there has been an increased use of contraceptives over the years, the usage is often not high enough to offset the ever increasing teenage sexual activities besides it being inconsistent in regard to regions and perceptions held by teenagers. Collected data related to the social outcomes of teenage girl pregnancies requires immediate attention of the policy makers and other social actors. In essence, national surveys indicate that two thirds of teenage girls who get pregnant before completing their high school education never manage to do so (Dietz, Williamson, Noedenberg, 1999, p.1359).
In essence, majority of these girls tend to remain single with no husbands to help in their parenting with three quarters of them ending up to rely on welfare within the first five years of motherhood. This is quite undesirable given that girls like young men are supposed to be successful in life.
Another troubling undesired consequence of teenage pregnancy is the negative effects posed to the children born. In this respect, the children born are likely to be parented differently than those born of mature people and two parent families. The children may end up living in poverty, have below standard health services and education among other negative effects. All this problems requires the tax payer to render a hand by paying an extra cost to the tax collector. Recent studies show that children born by teenage mothers are costing the taxpayers an average of 6.9 billion dollars per year. This figure can be translated to indicate that each year, the tax payers pay an average of 2, 831 dollars for each teenage mother in the country.
In the western world, United States has been recorded as having the highest teenage pregnancy rate, teenage births, abortion and dropouts by teenagers. As stated earlier, it is estimated that about one million teenage girls become pregnant before attaining a high school diploma with about half of these pregnancies ending up in birth, a third in abortion and the rest in miscarriages. For example, in the year 1993, it is recorded that more than five hundred babies were born to teenage girls in United States. While most of the concern regarding the issue of teenage pregnancies has been focused on teenagers below the age of eighteen, it should be noted that the majority of teenage births and pregnancies affects those between eighteen and nineteen years of age. As a result of the high rate of teenage pregnancies, United States in general have undergone huge costs both in social and economic terms (Martin, 2006, p.345).
There are variations in the rate of teenage pregnancies and births in different states with some having a higher rate than other due to various reasons. North Carolina is among the states with high teenage pregnancy rate and school drop out rate. In particular, the state has been ranked ninth in among the states in regard to high teenage pregnancy rate. Despite the visible efforts of the States legislature and the steady rate of teenage pregnancy in the State, the rate of pregnancies by teenager still remain a threatening problem in the State, consuming much of its resources and extending negative spill over to the North Carolina and United State in general. Efforts made both by the federal government and the State government to minimize teenage pregnancy rate and the rate of high school dropout rate are bearing small fruits compared to the dangers posed by these issues to the society and United States in general (Menanker, 2004, p.254).
It can be argued that despite the fact that the State have over the years recorded a modest decline in teenage pregnancies and dropout rates, the number of teenage births and even drop outs is expected to remain high as the population of teenagers increases over the next several years. The question therefore to be addressed is how to contain the number of teenage pregnancies in the State and America in General in the light of increasing teenage population.
Among states constituting United States, North Carolina has been reported as being ninth in position and in regard to teenage pregnancy. North Carolina ranked 38th in a study carried in United States regarding child well being. This position has been associated with childhood poverty and other factors related to poverty such as health problems and teenage pregnancies. In other words, this has been attributed to lack of enough resources to address the various issues related to child welfare. While this may be true, the level of teenage pregnancies in the state has remained tentatively high compared to many other states.
It has been reported that four percent of high school seniors in North Carolina have had sexual intercourse at least once in their lives. In this context, the state recorded an average of 18, 727 teenage pregnancies in the year 2005 with 750 teenagers coming from Forsyth county. It is estimated that for every twenty eight minutes a teenage girl get pregnant in North Carolina. Further studies conducted in the year 2006 have indicated that at least nineteen thousands teenage girls got pregnant. While this can be attributed to poor policies adopted by the policy makers, North Carolina legislature however is more conscious of the problems facing children in the state and the high rate of high school drop out for both boy and girls (Whipple, Wilson, 1996, p.239). The legislature has tried to establish policies touching on the welfare of children and that of their families. Such policies include a living wage and others regarding paid sick days for employees known to be taking care of their children and families. Efforts have also been done to fight for great access to health care facilities for children in Northern Carolina and their families.
Despite these efforts by the legislature, teenage pregnancy rate still remains high and alarming in the state and has turned out to be costly both in socio-economic and financial terms. Studies carried out have indicated that thirty three percent of teenage girls drop out of high school as a result of becoming a parent as compared to nineteen percent drop out rate for young men who become parents. In general, North Carolina exhibits a high rate of high school drop outs which have led the general assembly through efforts to make clear their concern about the drop out issue. It is reported that a third of all the students who join high school in North Carolina never manage to complete their education as a result of various reasons earlier pregnancy included.
As a part of efforts to deal with the drop out issue, a joint legislative commission on high school graduation and drop out prevention was convened to draft recommendations that would form basis for strong policies and strategies to address the issue. Their report after months of gathering information did not exclude the issue of teenage pregnancy and services which could be employed to prevent and control it.
However, it was later unfortunate that the state House in preparing its budget excluded provisions for these services due to various reasons. Further, the House also reduced its provisions for programs aimed at supporting teenage mothers. This was an unfortunate gesture because despite shortage of resources in the state, teenage pregnancy remains an important issue which requires more attention if the level of female teenagers dropping out of high school is to be put into a check and if efforts to improve the welfare of children in the state are to be successful (Friedman, 1985, p.34).
Studies indicate that an average of 53 teenage girls become pregnant every day in Northern Carolina with almost 30% of total teenage pregnancies involving teenagers being pregnant for a second time. In the period of 1990 and year 2005, studies carried out in North Carolina indicated that teenage pregnancy rate had dropped by 31 % representing a 34% decline in the rate of teen pregnancy in United States as a whole.
Figures collected in the year 2006 indicates that the rate have even fallen further with about 13% decline. For around twelve years in a row, teenage pregnancy rate in the state have continued to decline though this does not eliminate the dangers still posed to the society by the problem. An average of 63 teenage girls for every 1000 became pregnant in the year 2006. These girls were between the tender age of between fifteen and nineteen years. This however represents an impressive trend as compared to the rate of 95 teenage girls for every 1000 who became pregnant in year 2000 (Brian, 2001, p.98).
As stated earlier, decline in teenage pregnancy rate should not hinder efforts to curb the problem in the society. Despite the fact that the rate has been decreasing over the years, the decline has been inconsistent in respect to the various ethnic groups found in North Carolina and in United States in general. For example, the pregnancy rate among Latinos living in North Carolina is exceptionally high and doubles that of the nation as a whole according to recent studies. During 1990s the rate of teenage pregnancies involving whites and African American teenagers dropped by an average of 29 percent as opposed to those involving Latinas which dropped by only 19 percent: (http://www.joe.org/joe/1992spring/a4.html.
In general, pregnancies among teenage girls in North Carolina have increased the dropout rate in the state. Data collected and analyzed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the year 2002 reported dropout rates in forty five schools ranging from 2.2 percent to 10.9 percent. For the majority of these states, the dropout rates ranged from 4.0 percent to 7.0 percent. North Carolina recorded a dropout rate of around 6.3 percent with American Indian and American native recording a rate of 11.7 percent, Asian and Pacific Islander recording 4.6 percent, the blacks with 7.6 percent and the Hispanic 10.6 percent. Many of these dropouts as stated earlier were as a result of earlier parenting responsibilities.
In the same year, data collected by showed that 23.2 per 1000 of teenage girls in the age bracket of fifteen to seventeen years fell pregnant, 72.8 per 1000 of teenage girls between the age of eighteen and nineteen years giving an approximate of 43.0 per 1000 of teenage girls between the age of fifteen and nineteen years in the whole state. The studies also indicate that about 21.3 percentage of teenagers between the age of eighteen and twenty four year of age had at least a ninth grade education but lacked any high school credentials. On the other hand, North Carolina recorded 20.8 percent of those teenagers in the above bracket with ninth grade education but no high school diploma (Reed, 2002, p.67).
Despite the facts that national statistics regarding teenage pregnancies and dropouts date back to 2002, North Carolina has recent data dating back to 2007. Pregnancy among teenagers seems to be steady as those indicated by studies carried over four years preceding 2007 indicating that teen pregnancy rate has followed a five year plateau. The lowest rates during remains that of year 2003 which averaged around 13 pregnancies per 1000 teenage girls. The pregnancy rate recorded among teenage girls in year 2007 was 63.0 per 1000 girls as compared with the results of the previous year which indicated 63.1 per 1000 girls. These results were released by the State Center for Health Statistics. The same data indicated that a total number of 19,615 teenage girls between fifteen and nineteen years of age became pregnant in 2007. In these pregnancies, 29.4 percent occurred in girls who had had previous pregnancies and four hundred and four of them occurred to teens between ten and fourteen years of age (Carson, 2006, p.102).
Among the teens from which the data was collected, Hispanic teens registered the highest pregnancy rate despite the fact that this rate represented a huge drop since studies carried in year 2003. among Hispanic teens, the pregnancy rate was 167.4 per 1000 girls in 2007 down by a 3.3 percent from 173.1 per 1000 teenage girls in 2006. African American teenage girls indicated a rate of 87.1 per 1000 girls in 2007 as compared to 86.2 in the year 2006. The pregnancy rates among teenagers of American Indian origin and other minor ethnic groups were reportedly low to be reliable.
On a national perspective, teenage pregnancy rate in United states is over nine times larger than that recorded in Netherlands a fellow developed country and as much as four times large than that of France the same with German. Data collected and presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that nearly half of all high school students have had sex at least once in their lives with seven percent of them having experienced it as earlier as before thirteen years of age. Further, data collected shows that currently, only one third of high school students who are sexually active used a condom or any form of contraceptive during their last sexual encounter (Carson, 2006, p.135).
Between 1991 and year 2001, the proportion of high school students who were reportedly sexually active declined by sixteen percent with the percentage of those using condoms during sexual encounters increasing by twenty five percent. There exists no big difference in the proportion of high school students engaging in sexual activities or those who takes precautions through the use of condoms. However, from year 2005 to year 2006, teenage pregnancy rate increased by three percent.
Costs Associated with Teenage Pregnancies
At a National Glance
The costs associated by teen pregnancies are significantly high and involve both social and economic costs. In this sense any effort applied to reduce the rate of teen pregnancies and school drop outs can be of importance significance not only for the state but also for the nation as a whole.
The financial costs associated with teenage pregnancies in United States are high compared to the costs associated with other government projects and undertakings. It should be noted that these costs not only affect the federal government but also affects tax payers in general. In the year 1992, it was estimated that the federal government spent about 34 billion dollars for AFCD, Food Stamp benefits and Medicaid in an effort to support the teenage girls’ families. As indicated by national surveys, teenage girls who get pregnant while in high school never get their high school diploma (Mayhard, 1997, p.78).
In particular, studies have shown that about two thirds of these teenage girls drop out of school after getting pregnant and attend to other minor jobs while at the same time trying to support their family. The probability of such girls getting married remains low as studies have indicated and three quarters of them three quarters of them end up to relying on welfare within the first five years of motherhood. This is quite undesirable given that girls like young men are supposed to be successful in life.
In general, it is estimated that about 1.2 million teenagers drop out of high school every year in United States. This high drop out rate has received the attention of policy makers and efforts are being made to contain the problem. While it is obvious that the dropout rate is dangerously high, girls’ dropout has been generally overlooked in many States. One of the major reasons as to why the rate at which girls are dropping out of school at a higher rate as compared to young men is because of earlier pregnancies. In general, it is estimated that 1 in 4 girls in United States do not attain a high school diploma and this numbers are reportedly worse for girls of color. For example, the number is one in two for Native American girl student, four in ten for Hispanic students and four in ten for black American female students (Donna, 1984, p.56).
As the federal government and individuals try to contain the problem, they undergo significant costs. For one, a girl dropping out of school faces the risk of unemployment and expected economic security. This in turn will lead such girls to resort to welfare for their survival and that of their families. As stated earlier, studies have indicated that teenage girls who drop out of school tend to be unmarried and this does not ease the government load of providing welfare benefits to the girls and their families.
Moreover, it can be argued that children born by teenage mothers are more likely to face problems in future than those born to mature ladies. For example, such children may have earlier pregnancies also, may embark on drug usage or may be faced with poverty that tends to limit their livelihood. All this problems will increase governments spending in an effort to provide for the welfare of the teenage girls and that of their children.
In general, the federal government is forced to undergo income tax revenue and to increase its spending to meet various programs. Still, the tax payer is also forced to pay more to meet increased government spending. Problems associated with teenage pregnancies and the various programs adopted to help them raise their children while at the same time continuing with their studies have created a big financial burden to the federal and States governments not to mention individual taxpayers. In deed, tax payers are required to pay additional tax to the tax collector to cater for the increased welfare benefits. Research conducted indicates that teenage mothers are costing the federal government an average of 1.6 billion dollars per year which can be calculated as 2, 831 dollars for each teenage mother in the nation. All this money comes from the pockets of the taxpayer (Corinne, 2006, p.201).
The tax payer according to a study conducted by University of Delaware professor Saul Hoffman indicates that the tax payer is made to shoulder about 9.1 billion dollars to cater for costs associated with child bearing by teenage girls in the year 2004. In the year 1992 the Federal government parted with approximately 34 billion dollars in form of welfare benefits to families started by teenage mothers a figure considerably high compared to 16.6 billion dollars spent in 1985. It has been argued that for every dollar spent by the federal government in providing contraceptives to women from low income group, the government saves around four dollars in terms of welfare payments, payments associated with medical costs, education among others. Welfare payment by the federal government has been increased much by the problem of teenage mothers over the years with it persisting even to the older age of these mothers. For example, it has been reported that 55 percent of all the women aged between 15 and 44 years and who received welfare benefits from the government in 1993 became pregnant in their teen years. In deed, only 5 percent of these women were by then teenage mothers with 83 percent of the teenage mothers ageing between 18 and 19 years (Luker, 1997, p.45).
According to the report which was published by National Campaign to Prevent Teenager Pregnancy, Delaware parted with at least half a billion dollars between 1991 and year 2004 to cater for teenage births. According to the study conducted to the study conducted by Hoffman, 8.6 billion dollars among the total 9.1 billion dollars spent by the federal government in 2004 were meant for teenage girls under the age of seventeen years. Included in this cost was 2.3 billion dollars meant for child welfare, 1.9 billion dollars for health care, 2.9 billion dollars in lower tax revenue and 2.1 billion dollars meant for incarceration. As indicated by studies carried out by scholars, State and federal agencies, the children born to teenage girls have much higher associated costs in terms of foster health care and incarceration costs than those born to women of older age.
Moreover, children born by teenage mothers tend to earn a lower income on average as adults besides paying less in terms of taxes. Studies have also shown that teenage girls who give birth at an age below seventeen years are more likely to have the child placed in foster care as compared than those who gave their first birth at an age above twenty years. Further, such children are more likely to be reported to the authorities to be abusive to their children, to neglect such children. Many of these problems arise as a result of the complications associated with birth at earlier age. Such complications are expensive and serious in the sense that they sometimes lead to the death or disability in children born to teenage mothers
(http://www.schs.state.nc.us/SCHS/data/pregnancies/2007. Retrieved 01/14/09).
The overall drop in teenage pregnancies in United States has resulted from immense programs undertaken by the government and other social actors in the society to cater for the welfare of teenage mothers and their children. Factors that have led to a decline in teenage pregnancy rate includes reforms in welfare, reduction in benefits, churches, community groups, schools besides sex education programs organized by the government and these other actors. Sex and HIV programs organized by States and federal governments not to forget churches and community groups require funding to obtain optimal results. Such programs and factors can be associated with certain financial costs both to the government and the society as a whole. In Delaware alone, the tax payer parted with about 28 million dollars to cater for teen child bearing in the year 2004.
Other regions and States have alarming figures which in general costs the federal government a substantial amount of tax revenue collected. For example, Milwaukee which ranks number two in regard to the rate of teen pregnancies and births among the fifty largest United States underwent a cost of approximately 137 million dollars to cater for medical care among other services in the year 2002. Further, it is estimated that the taxpayers would have paid close to 35 million dollars for 25.8 percent teenage girls who had previously had children. Further, Indiana in year 1995 spent 7.4 million dollars in form of welfare aid to Dependent Children coming from approximately 2,700 teenage parents (Brunell, 2001, p.65).
This is just but a sample of the alarming figure of what the taxpayers in United States are forced to remit to cater for teenage mothers in the context of their welfare, their health and their education. Generally, the federal government spends even to date more billions in support programs of teenage mothers than it spend in prevention of teenage pregnancies which in itself is understandable given the limited government revenues.
Like many other states, North Carolina has over the years been faced with increased costs of catering for teenage parents and for dealing with issues associated with them including education among others. The State together with its habitants have increased efforts to help curb teenage pregnancies and to aid teenage mothers together with their children.
The legislature in the State, though faced with shortage of resources has shown considerable efforts in relations to teenage pregnancies and the issue of school drop out rates. Various provisions have been made by the State to address the issues in the context of sex education programs, awareness programs, welfare benefits among others. Agencies such as the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) and local community groups, churches and schools have become aware of the dangers posed by the problem of teenage pregnancies and each has started to step up effort to help the State government to fight the problem. Cooperative approach between private organizations, public agencies and community volunteers has been seen as one of the best way of dealing with the problem posed by teenage pregnancies and the associated dropouts from high schools
(http://www.schs.state.nc.us/SCHS/data/pregnancies/2007. Retrieved 01/14/09).
In North Carolina as is with most other States, the cost of catering for a teenage mother and her family is high. Indeed, teen pregnancy costs affect not only the parents of the teenagers involved, the teenagers themselves but also the whole community and the State as a whole.
According to a study done by the National Campaign in relation to the expenses that are related to teenage pregnancy, the taxpayers cost of catering for a teenage mother is 3,868 million dollars per year. In this context, the cost of health care for these mothers and their children in the year 2004 averaged about 54 million dollars with the total tax revenue lost averaging to about 105 million dollars. Still, the total costs associated with direct child welfare averaged about 36million dollars. In total, the State of North Carolina spends approximately 312million dollars of taxpayers’ money to aid teenage pregnancies. This money is distributed among the various programs needed to educate the teens on matters concerning sexuality and parenting, health services provision, foster care, incarceration among other vital services needed by teenage mothers and their children for survival (Turner, 2003, p.38).
A Broader Look
There are various consequences of teenage pregnancy but perhaps the most threatening one is that of dropping out of high school without having completed the studies and thus without a high school diploma. As studies have shown, very few teenage girls make their way back to school after pregnancy. In this regard, most of the teenagers who get pregnant in high school drop out of school and are faced with unemployment risks, they have a high percentage of not being married and in many instances and most of them end up turning to the welfare for support. In other cases, it is possible to find a teenager with a ninth grade certificate but with no high school diploma.
Either way, education is important for teenage girls the same way it is important to young men as it determines to a large extent the life of an individual. The level of education determines not only the financial independence of a person but also his or her economic success in regard to her livelihood. Since many of the teenage girls who get pregnant while still in school fails to get married and given the fact that some of them abandon studies all together, their economic welfare is somehow disadvantaged. They end up raising a family on their own from the proceeds they secure from minor job opportunities offering a lower income compared to their counter parts who completed their studies and probably went up to post high school studies. That’s one of the major reasons as to why most of these girls turn to welfare to seek support and consequently increasing the burden of the community as a whole as it strive to cater for their well being. It is therefore the role of private agencies, community groups and the government to combine efforts in helping teenage mothers while at the same time increasing measures adopted to prevent teenage pregnancies (Sharon, 1989, p.89).
A teenage mother is faced with various negative consequences which include not only the unemployment risk but also reduced educational achievement, poor mental health, low marital stability, greater health risks, large families and poor psychological functioning. Owing to the fact that teenage mothers mostly earn a lower income as compared to old women, they are together with their child subject to the limitations as posed by poverty. In this context, they will have inadequate housing, poor nutrition and less access to health care services which translates to poor health for them as well as their children (Turner, 2003, p.81).
On the other hand, children born by teenage mothers are at risk of being born with various health complications such as low birth weight, low rate of cognitive development, problems associated with later life behavior, child abuse besides infant mortality. Low birth weight is associated with other physical and mental problems such as mental retardation, blindness, cerebral palsy and chronic respiratory problems.
As studies have indicated, only twenty percent of children born by teenage mothers are likely to get the support of their fathers. The remaining eighty percent rely entirely on the economic resources of their mothers which in this case are low. For example, a teenage mother after dropping out of school is estimated to earn about 5,600 dollars on annual basis and probably for the first thirteen years of parenting which is less than half the poverty level. This will by extension have many implications to the child including involvement with the law, drug abuse and crime among other negative moral behavior.
The problem of teenage pregnancy is not an individual problem and needs the intervention of the government together with local community involvement to provide for the teenage mothers and to prevent future teenage pregnancies. Strategies and programs which are effective enough should be adopted to deal with the problem and more resources should be employed in measures of preventing teenage pregnancies just as is done with resources employed to aid their livelihood and that of their children (Reed, 2002, p.73).
Parents in particular should take a special interest in providing guidance and counseling services besides discussing openly with their children about the dangers associated with earlier sexual activities. The State government should provide leadership that will see the implementation of a range of policies and programs that are geared to not only aiding the survival of teenage mothers but also at providing preventive measures to avoid the persistence of the problem and thus avoiding future implications of teenage pregnancies to the life of the teenagers, their children and the society as a whole.
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