Teenage pregnancy is a serious social problem. According to the March of Dimes, about three in 10 teenage girls become pregnant before the age of 20. While many of these pregnancies end in abortion or adoption, teen girls who do decide to keep their babies face many challenges. Although less is known about teen fathers, research indicates that they, too, face problems associated with being parents.
The March of Dimes notes that pregnant teens are more likely to suffer complications during pregnancy. Their babies are more likely to experience premature birth, low birth weight or other serious health problems. These issues put babies at a greater risk of suffering newborn health problems, disability or death.
Teen parents often find that caring for a child makes it difficult for them to continue their schooling. According to StayTeen.org, more than half of teen mothers never graduate from high school, and fewer than 2 percent have graduated from college by the time they’re 30. This problem is not confined to teen mothers: as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy notes, research suggests that teen fathers also do not receive as much education as their peers.
Lack of schooling makes it more difficult for teen mothers to find and keep well-paying jobs. According to the March of Dimes, more than 75 percent of unmarried teen mothers go on welfare within five years of having their first baby. Teen fathers also experience annual earning losses of 10 to 15 percent, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Pregnancy and parenting can strain the relationships between teen parents. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, eight out of 10 teen fathers do not marry the mother of their first child. Becoming a teen parent also seems to have long-term implications for marriage: in comparison to people who did not have babies as teens, teen parents are significantly less likely to be married by the age of 35.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, depression is common among pregnant teens. Teen parents may feel guilty or anxious about the future. Teen parents are also more likely to subject their children to abuse and neglect because they feel overwhelmed by their unfamiliar, ever-demanding roles as parents.
Teen parents also face problems in regards to the success of their children. Children born to teen parents earn lower standardized test scores and are more likely to drop out of high school. According to StayTeen.org, daughters born to teen mothers are three times as likely to also become teen mothers, while sons are twice as likely to go to prison.
- March of Dimes: Teenage Pregnancy
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: When Children Have Children
- National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy: Linking Teen Pregnancy Prevention to Other Critical Social Issues
- National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy: Teen Pregnancy and Responsible Fatherhood
- StayTeen.org: Teen Pregnancy