Teenage pregnancy has proven itself to be a global problem that places both the mother and child at risk. This paper will examine studies about the risk factors for pregnancy in women under the age of 19 and comparing them to risk factors for women between 19 and 35 inclusively to determine if there is indeed some correlation existing between health and social issues, and teenage pregnancy. To accomplish this task, studies citing a correlation between the above mentioned issue and associated risks will be examined and evaluated to help determine if the correlation is true or spurious in order to validate or dismiss the risk assessment.
Statement of the Problem
Teenage pregnancy is a relevant issue because of its implied correlation to health issues, social issues, educational issues, and financial issues. It is a stigma that brings with it many repercussions that follow both the parent and the child and can place them at a disadvantage or stunt their growth potential. According one study, teenage mothers are more likely to develop health issues such as anemia, hypertension, delivering pre-term, and having underweight babies. The same study shows a correlation between poor socio-economic conditions, low literacy rates, and lack of awareness as some of the underlying factors contributing to teenage pregnancies (Mahavarkar, 2008).
Correlation is defined as a relationship in which two or more things are mutual or complementary, or one thing is caused by another. In doing a follow up case study on teenage pregnancy, Spear (2004) discovered that the majority of the studies on the subject have been “qualitative in nature with relatively few studies that examine the personal perspective and worldview of the adolescents who experience pregnancy and childbearing” (Pediatric Nursing, 30.2). Conducting studies on the subject is one matter but failing to understand and shed light on the underlying factors or repercussions is in no way advising others on how to deal with or avoid being caught in the proverbial trap of teenage pregnancy.
In Mirowsky’s study he not only found that the ratio of health problems expected given first birth under age 18 versus around age 34 equals that from currently being 14 years older at age 48. He states that the risk of dying in child birth also declines with having delayed first birth well beyond the end of puberty and a comparison to non-mothers of similar age and race/ethnicity shows that the correlation of motherhood with health problems and mortality hazard switches from detrimental to beneficial with delay beyond about age 22 (Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46.1). Talking out of context, it is easy to conclude from his findings that delaying child birth and pregnancy to an age over 22 will not only prolong life, but put us in a better position to pursue needed social, educational, and financial needs.
Mirowsky also enlightens us in the same issue, of some of the medical issues faced when dealing with teenage pregnancy. These issues are more common to mothers under the age of 20 compared to mothers in their 20s or 30s, including lung disease, eclampsia, kidney disease, fevers, seizures during labor, and congenital anomalies which may result from incomplete development of the reproductive system. The study also shows that first-time teenage mothers who receive proper pre-natal cares, which are more mature, and more stable than most of their counterparts, faces a higher risk of birthing premature and low birth weight babies than older first-time mothers with the same characteristics. Not to be discounted but “mothers older than 35 or 40 have a higher probability of developing gestational diabetes, placenta previa, breech presentation, postpartum hemorrhage, birth asphyxia, delivery before 32 weeks, birth weight below the 5th percentile, down syndrome, and stillbirth” (Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46.1).
One study tells us that pregnancy at any age involves developmental change, and usually this spells disaster for a teenager because “when the stress of two developmental stages, adolescence and young adulthood are compressed, successful completion of both sets of tasks is compromised” (Rodriguez, 1995). This can put both the teen mother and their children at risk for social, developmental, and psychological retardation. Rodriguez seems to have the solution for these issues. He recommends that there be a “correlation of positive father/daughter relationships with feeling good about self, and the more positive relationships with mother and father” and “family involvement, regardless of how it is defined and measured” (Rodriguez, 1995).
The study done by Spear (2004) does show that some teenage mothers who are sometimes forced to grow up and face their responsibilities actually do so. Two of her subjects have moved on and have come into their own, educationally, financially and socially and based on their experience, they can advise their children on the issue at hand.
Taking into consideration the global concern for teenage pregnancy and the literature studied, it is easy to surmise that that the group is indeed at a higher risk level for medical issues, social stagnation and educational retardation. The studies show that an underdeveloped body is in no way prepared to sustain another especially when poor diet, lack of knowledge, or lack of proper medical care are the most prominent factors to contend with. Social stagnation is possible since the age of both the child and parent in such close proximity of each other. Educational retardation is also most certainly a possibility for both the child and the parent since the basic needs will most likely be centralized around food, clothing, and shelter. The studies are in no way conclusive but it sheds a great deal of light on the issue at hand and provides information that can be used as a tool for guidance in curbing the problem.