This study brings to focus the issue involving the pervading problem of teen pregnancy in America and how it is affecting and shaping the nation’s future, as well as its possible impact on other cultures around the world. The United States has been considered for a decade a world leader and the most influential nation that has affected and shaped other people-group’s history and culture as well as it’s own, irregardless of whether they are agreeable to it or not. No other nation has exported much of its culture as well as its goods.
One of the most vulnerable sectors, with the onslaught of diverse changes in society’s way of life, is the teen-age groups. Although this country belongs to the highly developed ones and boasts as a world leader in helping other nations free, yet it has not freed itself from the plague of teen-age pregnancy. Although there is a considerable drop in rate, the situation is far from a cause of rejoicing. Cold statistics show that “approximately 97 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 or one million American teenagers get pregnant (“Reducing Teen Age Pregnancy”. http://www. plannedparenthood.
org). This figure reveals that it is the highest among developed nations. There are many contributory factors to these social ills. Only three of the varying factors will be mentioned below, which are considered to play key roles in affecting the teen years and how it has lead or can lead to teen-pregnancy: 1. As physical changes in their bodies occur, so do in their individual’s attitude and interests. It is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood, often marked and had commonly been observed as a time of “storm and stress”. Others refer to it as the “turbulent years”.
The teen-ager experience physical development towards the maturation of the sex glands. For girls, it is signified by the first menstrual period, but other characteristics also appear such as the widening of the hips, the development of the breast, the growth of pubic hair and hair in the armpits. Boys on the other hand, experience a change of voice and the growth of hair in the private parts and in the armpits. It is a phase that there is a heightened interest on a person who serves as a “love- object”, usually of the opposite sex, who inspires the deepest emotional feelings of attraction.
It has been commonly accepted that there is a strong correlation between emotional responses and physical changes. While all these development is considered normal for this phase, inability to have healthy coping mechanisms with these changes by the individual teen-ager, can lead to problems such as teen-pregnancy. Irrational decisions can easily be made by teen-agers brought by unhampered emotions which can lead to lifelong difficult consequences. 2. As they go through a phase of slowly gearing away from parental emotional dependence, his/her loyalty shifts more to groups of friends or gangs.
Peer pressure and the need to belong, plays a key influence on the teen’s decision to engage in pre-marital sex, coupled by their strong sense of “injustice”— that adult-made rules are always perceived as “unfair”. They are usually irked, not by the content of rules but by its origin. It is aggravated when there is poor family relations with parents having poor coping mechanisms to stress such as alcoholism, physical and or emotional abuses, drug addiction, can further the chances of children bearing children out of wedlock. 3.
While attempts to educate about the subject have been inculcated in the school system, the goal of bringing it to a low level is far from being achieved. Other influences such as the media, from motion pictures, television, magazines, and books have brought so much to the minds of the young. While bygone eras of American history considers sex as a taboo even for discussions, much less depicted on screen or making it available in print, present-day scenarios had made it as common as stones, thereby desensitizing their young minds, eroding their sense of morality which could function as an inhibiting factor.
It is most inaccurate to pinpoint one factor though as the only culprit, but more of interplay of the different factors that contribute to the problem. II. Social Impact: The institution that is immediately affected by teen-age pregnancy is the family unit itself. The financial, psychological and emotional unpreparadness of the teen parent/s can directly hamper the development of the child born to them. The family is the basic unit in society where values are first taught and learned.
The addition of an unwanted child can cause further strain in family relationships. It also affects the economy of the nation since a considerable amount of the national budget is allotted for their social and health welfare. This also results in more school drop-outs and would develop low levels of aspiration, a sure ingredient to poverty. They become content in taking jobs as factory workers. There is a growing concern on their ability to lead the country towards continued development or maintaining its rank as a world leader.
The government has already passed laws, whose goals are to eradicate or keep the rate in lower levels. Effects had also been shown to be far reaching in terms of global impact. Pop culture found mostly in teenagers promotes freedom to express oneself, or doing anything ones wants. This also carries a subliminal suggestion of “freedom” to engage in sexual activities which can be transported through the media and other teenagers of different countries or cultures, making them prone to copy anything “Western-American”.
III. Proposed Solutions: In finding possible solutions that are attainable, there are no quick and easy answers. In fact, pinning down the cause-and-effect theory on this matter is similar to answering a popular riddle:” which comes first, the chicken or the egg? ” In an analogous manner, the vulnerable teen-agers are confronted with changes in the political, economic, social landscape that have a great impact on creating the teen-culture of today and of the future. On the other hand, some believe otherwise.
They advocate the viewpoint that these sectors in society is bringing on the changes in government policies, affecting the national economy since the government allots billions of dollars for social welfare and whose interests and attitudes are simply being catered to by the media, one of the most powerful tools for consumerism. Is it the people who creates the change on institutions or is it the other way around, the institutions that are bringing in the changes on how people think and behave in the community to which he belongs?
Culture has been defined in an article published by AsiaWeek in 1993 by Mark Sullivan’s “The American Mind”, wherein he states that: “A nation’s culture is the point of view everyone has on individual conduct and social relations. It is people’s attitude to government and to other peoples, their habit of mind about the duty of parents to children and children to parents, their standards of taste and morals, their wisdom stored in proverbs and aphorisms, their venerations and loyalties, their prejudices and biases, their canons of conventionality.
It is the group of ideas held in common by most of the people. ” (M. Sullivan. “The American Mind”. AsiaWeek, Nov. 10, 1993) His study asserts the belief that the American Culture that pervaded during the first quarter of 20th century was marked by gallantry, having citizens who lived on values guided by patriotism, honesty, integrity, temperance, industry, politeness, courage and other exemplary virtues. Many ascribe responsibility for this to the author of schoolchildren’s books, William Holmes McGuffey.
These books teach wonderful virtues in story form, values as rare as rubies among the youngsters of today. Heroes of yesteryears were emulated for their strength in character; nowadays juicy gossips of celebrities’ lives punctuated by scandals feed the minds of the teenage public. If therefore, a nation’s culture is shaped by the collective point of view and conduct of its constituents, then there is a great need in reshaping the molding-pattern that in turn sets the thinking-pattern of the people.
As American society becomes a host of diverse people-group coming from differing religious beliefs and background, it tends to accommodate and perpetuate subtle anarchy through individualism, eroding the mental attitudes and ethical concepts that differentiated Americans from other peoples or were more emphasized in America than elsewhere. The goal of education towards the development of a better society is not just to fill the minds with a stock of ideas.
It is not only responsible for filling the minds but shaping the hearts by teaching lessons that emphasize industry, mercy, and self-control (which can never bring any harm to oneself or anyone) during the impressionable years of childhood, just when the gates of fleeting adolescence are opened. It would open the gate in just the right way, leading the child towards a good end. Teaching the child in the way he should go, would most likely result in him not departing from it.
In order to address this problem, the bulk of responsibility lies on the combined effort of the institutions such as the family, the school, the church, the government and economic system. All these sectors, but ultimately by the government (who is responsible for passing and sanctioning laws), should adopt new alternatives to make it more responsive to the changing social environment. Institutions are the catalyst for initiating change in its people.
Most present-day programs addressing teen-age pregnancy are like healing a severe wound with a strip of “Band-Aid”. It does not cure the illness itself nor unable to stop other related problems such as rape cases from emerging. In order to forge a better future, America needs to look back from the annals of its own history. It has shown the world a glorious past of American culture worthy of respect. There is a need of re-inventing the American mind. This requires patience, where people are used to fast foods and microwave ovens.
We need to put in mind the patience of the farmer who patiently waits from seedtime to harvest. References: 1. “Reducing Teenage Pregnancy”. http://www. plannedparenthood. org/pp2/portal/files/portal/medicalinfo/teensexualhealth/fact-teen-pregnancy. xml 2 “Teenage Pregnancy”. http://www. coolnurse. com/pregnancy. htm 3. “Teen Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion”. http://www. siecus. org/pubs/fact/fact0010. html 4. Sarah Brown. “Teen Pregnancy in America”. http://www. unitedhealthfoundation. org/shr2005/index.
html 5. “Sex and Drugs”. “http://www. teenpregnancy. org/resources/reading/fact_sheets/drugsondcp. asp 6. “When Children have Children”. http://www. aacap. org/publications/factsfam/pregnant. htm 7. Cheryl Wetzstein. “Pregnancy Pause” http://washingtontimes. com/culture/20060524-112252-2376r. htm 8. “Best Practices for Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Parenting Programs” http://www. cwla. org/programs/pregprev/flocrittpractices. htm 9. Mark Sullivan. “The American Mind”. Asia Week, November 10, 1993