The rate of teenage pregnancy is on the rise again, according to the March of Dimes. Much research has been done noting the significant health risks of teen pregnancy to both the mother and the child. In our recent history, efforts at sex education, contraceptive availability and abstinence programs have focused on preventing teen pregnancy. These programs have not been considered very effective and do not take into consideration the emotional factors that lead to teen pregnancy.
Loss and Depression
Adolescents usually do not plan on getting pregnant when they engage in sexual behaviors. Their inability to see future consequences for their behavior as well as psychological immaturity puts them at risk. Adolescents who have suffered the death of a loved one, separation or divorce of her parents or a major change such as moving or changing schools may have depression and a subsequent increased vulnerability to teen pregnancy. According to Open Doors Counseling and Education Services, it is this vulnerability and the need to replace the loss that can lead to high-risk sexual behavior. Teens seek out emotional consoling through sexual contact. 4Parents notes that teens who are depressed are less likely to use a condom and more likely to have sex with multiple partners.
Family Hostilities and Deprivation
A teen living with parents who are emotionally unavailable or physically abusive will seek to replace the emotional void in her family life with sexual behavior. When a teen girl experiences hostile, distant relationships with her parents, a contemptuous relationship with her mother and/or a distant or difficult relationship with her father, the teenager may have difficulty implementing behavior that could prevent pregnancy. The need to find love and acceptance overwhelms impulse control. According to Open Doors Counseling and Education Services, the teen may want to replace a hostile family life with someone who will love her and won’t hurt her, such as a baby.
Helplessness and Hopelessness
When a teen is trapped in a hostile, unloving environment, her self-esteem will suffer. Low self-esteem increases vulnerability and decreases her ability to refuse to go along with risky sexual behaviors.
Open Doors Counseling and Education Services notes that this is particularly evident in cases of abuse or deprivation. Often these girls turn to substance abuse, which further weakens their ability to look after themselves in a healthy way. Drugs and alcohol are a way to escape the hopelessness of reality that she faces daily. Sexual behavior while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in pregnancy and the transmittal of sexual diseases.