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Biological and Health Outcomes
Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy
ABSTRACT. This paper examines the negative consequences of teenage pregnancy. It consists of a review of the evidence of a nonrandom sample of the literature addressing this issue. The research evidence reviewed indicates that teenage pregnancy results in significant negative consequences, including biological, psychological, health, economic and social ones.
Because of its high prevalence (CDC, 2011), teenage pregnancy is recognized as a public-health issue and as a social problem worldwide. According to World Health Organization (2012), around 16 million teenagers give birth every year. In the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s statistics, about 448,000 women aged 15–19 became pregnant in 2013, for a national rate of 43 per 1,000 15-19 aged women. This rate, however, is not the same for various ethnic groups. The pregnancy rate among African American women aged 15–19 was the highest (76 per 1,000 women), followed by the rate of Hispanic women of the same age group (61 per 1,000), and then the rate among the 15-19 non-Hispanic white women (30 per 1,000). According to recent data of the Centers for Disease Control (2017), about 194,377 babies were born to women aged 15–19 years in 2017, with a birth rate of 18.8 per 1,000 women in this age group. https://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm
Teenage pregnancy is not free from significant problems for the teen involved, her baby and family and society at large. This paper examines the various major consequences of teenage pregnancy, particularly the negative ones involving serious implications. The paper consists of a brief review of a small nonrandom sample of the relevant literature focusing on this issue.
Consequences of Teenage Pregnancy
According to the evidence of the research findings reviewed, teenage pregnancy could result in negative outcomes impacting the teen involved, her baby and family, and society at large. The consequences include high morbidity and various adverse biological and health, psychological, and social and economic outcomes.
Teenage pregnancy is associated with significant morbidity (Chen, Wen, Fleming, Demise, and Rhoads, 2007). Adolescent mothers are reported to have a higher overall mortality rate later in life even after controlling for socioeconomic status (Olausson, Haglund, Weitoft, and Cnattingius, 2004). Other researchers reported that the proportion of stillbirths and newborn deaths are much higher for teenage mothers, as compared to that of women aged 20-29 years; it’s 50% higher among infants of young mothers in this age group. These authors also reported that infants of adolescent mothers are more likely to have low birth-weight babies, as compared to older women (Chotigeat and Sawasdiworn, 2011).
Biological and Health Outcomes
Johnson(2018) reported that without other irregular challenges, adolescence is a very complex transitional stage associated with occurring biological, psychological, and sociological changes. Pregnancyadds another challenge or complication to the physical and mental development of the adolescent. Problems, such as pre-term births, stillbirth, and neonatal death, are common in pregnant adolescents. Babies born to teenage mothers have a higher likelihood for adverse infant outcomes, including low birth weight (Kurth et al. 2010) premature birth (Gilbert, Jandial, Field, Bigelow, Danielsen, 2004), and infant death (Markovitz, Cook, Flick, and Leet, 2005).
According to the data reported on the American Pregnancy Association website, the following risks are associated with teenage pregnancy: low birth weight/premature birth, anemia (low iron levels), high blood pressure or pregnancy induced hypertension, a higher rate of infant mortality (death), and greater risk of cephalopelvic disproportion(the baby’s head is wider than the pelvic opening. https://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/teen-pregnancy-issues-challenges/(retrieved on 6/10/2019)
In comparing the data obtained from a nonrandom group of 128 teenagemothers with the findings reported by other relevant maternity-services studies, Goldberg and Craig (1983) found that that in the teenage group hypertension, premature labor and anemia were significant complications, as compared with the statistics of older women.
Teenage pregnancy is a stressful event that could increase the risk of mental and emotional problems or disorders (Freitas, Cais, Stefanelto, Botega, 2008; Mitsuhiro et al., 2009). Published research has documented that Major Depressive Disorder is common among pregnant teenagers but it’s often under-detected (Chalem et al., 2011). Its prevalence rates in the teenager in this population ranges from 13 percent to 30 percent, depending on the sample characteristics and the instrument used to assess depressive symptoms, as well as the threshold for case identification (Ferri et al., 2007; Freitas, Cais, Stefanelto, Botega, 2008; and Pereira, Lovisi, Lima, and Legay, 2010).
Some research has shown that the risk factors for depression during teenage pregnancy are associated with certain socio-demographic characteristics, such as lower education (Ferri et al., 2007); lower socioeconomic status (Leigh and Milgrom, 2008); and the absence of a supportive partner (Figueiredo and Pacheco, 2007). Other researchers have documented the impact of psychosocial conditions, such as previous depressive episodes (Lancaster et al., 2010); stressful life events (Leigh and Milgrom, 2008); and intimate violence (Lindhorst and Oxford, 2008; Valentine and Rodriguez, 2011).
Further, research has also documented that the adverse consequences of pregnant-adolescent depression include threats to the teenage mothers’ welfare and even life, such as suicidal behavior (Freitas, Cais, Stefanelto, Botega, 2008); harmful outcomes to the baby, such as low birth weight (Ferri et al., 2007); preterm birth (Grote et al., 2010); and detrimental impact on the mother-child functional interactions (Panzarine, Slater, and Sharps, 1995). Therefore, addressing the possible risk factors associated with depression during a teenager’s pregnancy could be necessary for preventing the negative outcomes of depression (Panzarine, Slater, and Sharps, 2009).
Social and EconomicConsequences
Teenage pregnancy and associated childbearing result in substantial educational, social and economic problems and costs, including immediate and long-term impacts on teen parents, their children, their families, and society at large. Based on the evidence of published research, teenage pregnancy is correlated with academic failure, unemployment, and socioeconomic deprivation (Allen and Philliber, 1997).
According to Perper, Peterson, and Manlove (2010), teenage pregnancy and resulting births contribute significantly to high school dropout rates among high school teens. Further, another indirect consequence is that only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22. In addition, approximately about 90 percent of teenagers who do not give birth during their adolescent years graduate from high school. This percentage is much lower for teenagers who become pregnant and give birth.
Similarly, Hoffman (2008) reported that the children of teenage mothers are more likely:
To have lower school achievement;
To drop out of high school;
To have more health problems;
To be incarcerated at some time during adolescence;
To give birth as a teenager; and
To face unemployment as a young adult.
Assini-Meytin, Luciana, and Green (2015) reportedthat at age 32, as compared to non-teen mothers, teenage mothers were more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty, depend on welfare, and have earned a GED or completed high school compared to finishing college. At age 42, the effect of teen motherhood remained statistically significant for education and income. In a similar vein, at the age of 32, teen fathers were more likely to be without a job than non-teen fathers.
Discussion and Conclusion
The evidence reviewed indicate clearly that teenage pregnancy results in detrimental, psychological, health, economic and social consequences for the pregnant teen, her family, and the entire society. Besides the health and mental problems, teenage childbearing results in reducing the educational attainment of the mother and her future income and thus exacerbating the problem of poverty and dependency on welfare, and increasing family instability and the likelihood of struggling with mental-illness challenges.
Addressing teenage pregnancy is a very complex task and requires another study by itself. It’s sufficient here to say that for such a task to be effective, it must be comprehensive and consist of individual and societal approaches. At the individual level, there are roles for the teen family members, friends and school counselors. At the societal level, several institutions could play significant roles as well and fulfill necessary social functions. These institutions include the church, school systems, social organizations, and political administrations.
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