A stigma weighs heavily on teenage childbearing – that a girl, who has gotten pregnant and chooses to carry her baby to full term even without the benefit of marriage, is trapped in a poverty-filled life. But Frank Furstenberg’s article entitled “Teenage Childbearing as a Public Issue and Private Concern” that spanned almost three decades, confirmed otherwise.
Furstenberg’s Baltimore Study, where he interviewed more than 400 women when they got pregnant in their teens and where follow-up interviews were done every three or five years subsequently to investigate how they fared as parents and adults, defied the conventional beliefs/expectations that the women were chained to a life of poverty, if not dependency.
In fact, the young mothers went back to school, graduated, while some pursued college; most eventually got married, though they struggled to have lasting marriages; most of them found work (with benefits and job security); and most maintained close relationship with their children, of which they admitted, were their main motivation to strive harder. Additionally, most of these children finished high school (and some went to college); were gainfully employed; were more careful with their sexual relationships; and had family of their own.
Despite these surprising results –which would have been platform to correct the misconceptions – teenage childbearing still had not lost its negative connotations. Furstenberg blamed it on America’s notion of premarital chastity that is hinged on Christian religion; the education’s sector weak sexual instruction program; media’s otherwise ineffectual treatment; and the family’s constrained handling of the topic.
He also apologized, on behalf of the sociologists and other research organizations, that they have not fully explored the roots of the teenage childbearing. He called for further and more objective research efforts, within the context of peer pressures and differences in culture and demographic backgrounds. As one looks at the issue, one is appalled at the negative connotations that underlie this issue. Perhaps it is because of the issues on premarital chastity that aggravates these negative nuances on the topic.
The author concluded his article by reiterating that teenage mothers hardly differ from those who gave birth in their 20s. His only lament was that this real picture is lost on politicians, policy makers and the public in general. Indeed, the issue is often muddled because of the other bigger issues promulgated by politicians and other so-called concerned agencies who may really be after their own self-interests and motivations. Reading the article, one would come to the conclusion that the world conspired against women.
Gender equality is still an ideal that constantly shifts. The fact that the task of bearing children is biologically attached to women, they are faced with dilemmas far more complicated than men do. They must contend with their biological clock and if they do decide to be pregnant (or unintentionally become one), they experienced changes in their bodies, but also the way society deals with them. It appears that women can never really have both: career and family life.
There is always a trade-off, there is always a sacrifice. From the studies highlighted by these articles, a woman’s happiness and fulfillment is subverted by her biological responsibility to carry a child, by her maternal instinct to care for a child, by her desire to be more economically independent, by the religion’s severe expectations of chastity, by the government’s myopic and outdated policies, and in most cases, by the opposite sex’s self-centeredness.
WORK CITED Furstenberg, Jr. Frank F. Teenage Childbearing as a Public Issue and Private Concern. Vol. 29: 23-39 (Volume publication date August 2003) Review in Advance on June 4, 2003 Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104