MacDonald’s article reveals the grim reality of teenage pregnancy and unmarried mothers in the Hispanic community in the United States, backed up by statistical data on various circumstances surrounding unwed young mothers. Birth rates among young, unwed Hispanic mothers are so alarming that according to the Census Bureau, “one in four Americans will be Hispanics by mid-century, twice the current ratio; also, Hispanics will account for 46 percent of the nation’s added population for over the next two decades” (Mac Donald).
Statistics show that the Hispanic women have the highest occurence of births outside marriage at 45 percent, “compared to the 24 percent of white births and 15 percent of Asian births” (Mac Donald). Only the black population exceed this figure at 68 percent. This can possibly imply a higher demand for a larger welfare state, if incidents of unplanned pregnancy among young Hispanic women surge. MacDonald spoke to several social workers and other people who provide aid and services to these young women in South California, where most illegal immigrants flock, to illustrate the situation of Hispanic young women.
According to these workers, illegitamacy has become the norm among the Hispanic community and it is not unusual for young, unwed Hispanic women seek welfare and social services (Mac Donald). According to Dr. Ana Sanchez, it is noteworthy to look into the values system of the Hispanics and compare it with the values system of other cultures. For instance, Dr. Sanchez thinks that in a Hispanic household, having babies outside marriage is normal; whereas in an Asian household, parents strongly imbibe in their children that teenage pregnancy is a taboo (Mac Donald).
Another factor that contributes to the increase in unwed teenage pregnancy is the most powerful Hispanic value – a tight-knit extended family (Mac Donald). While marriage is no longer a cherished value in the Hispanic community, a tight-knit family is still very much treasured and children are always a welcome addition to the family. It is an honor for a young girl to be have a baby at a young age. If the father of the child is unavailable, which is normally the case, the relatives are more than willing to help raise the child.
The fathers of the children of unwed young Hispanic mothers are another factor that contribute to the problem of rising dependence of young Hispanic mothers on social welfare and services. It is not uncommon for fathers to run off after getting a girl pregnant, regardless of the age. They cohabitate with the mother of their child initially but this does not usually last long (Mac Donald). Girls who are impregnated by older men is another issue that raises the eyebrows of social workers. The fathers of these children can be as young as 13 or as old as the boyfriend of the girl’s mother.
Situations where girls are sexually assaulted by their mother’s boyfriends are not uncommon in the Hispanic community (Mac Donald). The present boyfriend of their mother is usually not their father because even their mothers had them when they were their daughter’s age. If it is not their mother’s boyfriend, it is their uncle. The belief is that older men prefer virgins because they think that they cannot be impregnated on their first sexual intercourse and they are less likely to have sexually transmitted diseases.
Another revelation in this situation is that the cycle of early, unwed pregnancy among young mothers is a prevalent issue because it is something that is imbibed to them by their elders. Young girls turn out to be like that because their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts went through the same thing at the same age. It gives them the impression that having a child before marriage is perfectly normal. Consequently, relying on social services and welfare has also become a normal part of their lifestyle.
The last few paragraphs of MacDonald’s article provide the various solutions that are being implemented to address this issue. For instance, some schools in California have a day care center for the babies of their students. MacDonald also mentions the “Latina Adolescent Suicide Prevention Act aims to channel $10 million to “culturally competent” social agencies to improve the self-esteem of Latina girls and to provide “support services” to their families and friends if they contemplate suicide” (Mac Donald).
There are also support group for parents of children who show signs of delinquency such as gang involvement and antisocial behavior; members are usually single mothers. The life of a young, unwed and single mother is not easy. On top of that, the Hispanic community still remains to be a minority in the United States, even if their population is expected to double in the coming years. Support groups such as the ones mentioned above will aid the single mother in coping with the harsh reality in a foreign country.
However, the adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still works in this case. Aside from helping teenage moms, efforts should be allocated in creating an environment for young Hispanic women that will reduce the likelihood of pregnancy outside marriage. According to the study of National Council of La Raza’s Institute for Hispanic health, Hispanic communities misconstrue pregnancy prevention campaigns as “anti-family” campaigns (Elkins).
NCLR suggests that programs should address family planning rather than the notion of pregnancy itself. According to the Latino Initiative, a very effective way of curbing unwed pregnancies among young women is to foster family values and strengthen parent-child ties because children who are close to their parents are more likely to enact safer sexual practices (Elkins). This intervention program not only works in Hispanic communities; it works almost everywhere as well.
Courtney from Study Moose
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