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Teenage Pregnanacy


First of all, let’s be clear that teenage pregnancy isn’t bad or wrong. It’s been the normal thing for the human race for most of its history. It’s it just that in our society, it’s hard for a young couple, or a young woman on her own, to avoid poverty unless they are able to finish their education, get some qualifications, and manage the cost and time demands that a baby makes. (There have been some very welcome-back-to-school programs trailed in high schools, helping young mothers to both parents well and finish their education. And remarkably, these programs have been found to reduce the pregnancy rates in those schools- it’s good for other teenagers to see the reality of teen parenting face to face.) But on the whole, teenage pregnancy is a setback that in most cases you would want to avoid. 

So what can you do to help your daughter avoid getting pregnant too young? It turns out the way you live your life as a parent is the biggest factor in whether your daughter chooses to get pregnant at a very young age. 

According to a study by Professor Julie Quinlivan, professor of obstetrics at Melbourne University and head of the Royal Women’s Hospital’s ‘Young Mums’ clinic, about third teenage mothers actually, plan their pregnancies, and believe that having a baby will be one of most positive experiences of their lives. 

ProfessorQuinlivan told the Sydney Morning Herald that the appeal of getting pregnant, for some girls, is in the chance to build a loving family life for themselves, which is sometimes in contrast to their own experience. She found that teenage mothers were much more likely to have come from fractured families, and so were seeking love and Security through having a baby. This can be a recipe for disaster unless a lot of support is provided. 

Professor Quinlivan found that more than half of the teenage mothers studied had parents who had separated before they were five years old, (that’s five times higher than the normal rate). They were also ten times more likely to have been exposed to violence between their parents, and to have had negative relationships with them. 

For some teenagers, creating their own family was a way to escape, Professor Quinlivan said. ‘If you have an adverse early life, you want to grow up fast, and get our early to feel safer.’

One of the strongest themes to emerge from interviews with pregnant teenagers was their idealization of the motherhood – more than half expected it would be the most exciting event of their lives.  (But that’s true for most of the rest of us, too!) The problem lay in what made it exciting: the prospect of baby’s unconditional love. ‘That comes through all the time, that this is someone who loves me,’ Professor Quinlivan said.

She added that the findings showed that it was not simply a matter of improving sex education or access to contraception. Rather, it was one of “breaking the cycle”, as the children of teenage parents were more likely to become teenage parents themselves. 

About two-thirds of teenage mums Professor Quinlivan studied are doing well. ‘The ones who do well have family support, get back into education, and don’t have another baby straight away,’ Professor Quinlivan said.  About half of the teenage mothers have another child within two years, which makes it difficult for them to continue their education. 

So to conclude, if you don’t want your daughter to become a teenage mum:

Make sure you and your partner are not violent to each other. 

Demonstrate respectful relationships with her.

Give her lots of unconditional love, involvement, and security.

If you are a dad, stay around and stay involved in her life.

Some of these are a pretty hard call. If you are in a violent marriage, do you leave, and become a ‘fractured family’ or stay and ‘model poor relationships’? Perhaps the only good answer is to get help. Because every step you manage to make towards safe, secure, involved family living will strengthen the safety net around your daughter.

And if your daughter does become pregnant? Then, the support of others to continue her schooling and settle in well with her new baby (and hopefully her partner) is essential to things working out. After all, a baby is a gift, even if she isn’t great. 

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