ABC NEWS/Primetime Goes Inside The Lives of Teens Having Babies

June 23, 2009 / Welcome to the Motherhood

Teenagers having sex often starts out as something exciting and forbidden - and they just don’t believe that one night in bed could change their lives forever. But all too often, the result of teens' secret sex lives is an unwanted and unexpected pregnancy. From a 14-year-old who got pregnant the first time she had sex, to a teen dad raising his infant son and hoping to finish his senior year in high school, Jay Schadler reports on the highs, lows and ultimate consequences of American children having children on the premiere of “Primetime: Family Secrets,” airing on TUESDAY, JUNE 23(10:00 – 11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

These girls are in middle school

For the first time in 15 years, the teen birth rate is on the rise in the United States. Throughout the past year, ABC News has followed four families as they deal with the day-to-day realities of teen pregnancy. In Haverhill, Massachusetts, there are times of doubt and moments of joy, as Schadler spends time with a young couple, who are high school seniors and taking the less traveled path of trying to raise their six-month-old son together. In Louisville, Kentucky, 14-year-old Mahogany attends an unusual school designed for pregnant teens as she experiences both determination and self-doubt with her body changing every day. “Primetime” is with her as she gives birth to her son, and as he keeps her awake at night. In Yakima, Washington, an 18-year-old homecoming queen shocks the school her senior year by becoming pregnant with the school’s star quarterback. And in Texas, 14-year-old Paige cries out for her mother when the contractions intensify. Some of the teenagers Schadler meets have their parents’ support, while some feel completely alone, but all of them are ill-prepared for how quickly they have to grow up.

Schadler also examines the two vastly different schools of thought about how to talk to kids about sex. He attends a Massachusetts comprehensive sex education class, which assumes that teens are going to have sex and that the best protection is to prepare them with condom demonstrations and frank talk.

In a Texas high school, they teach that “saving oneself” until marriage is the “cool” thing to do, and stress that premarital sex leads to broken hearts and sexually transmitted diseases. Despite the different approaches, teen pregnancy continues to rise all across the country, with American children having children at the highest rate among industrialized nations


Teen pregnancy

As a school board member I voted to allow condoms and other birth control options to be distributed in the clinic in our high school. This is an opt in program. The clinic is run by a large Metropolitan Hospital and they received a grant for this program. A parent has to OK for their child to go to the clinic, they have to OK that their child receives info. or products. In health class our students talk about abstinence and also about birth control. Prime time commented on even though teens have sex ed. 6 out of 10 have sex. I would rather be safe than sorry. This is a parents right to choose and all the religious fanatics are saying what we are doing is wrong. What is wrong is that our welfare system is paying for these children. NOT THE CHURCH. Let's try to prevent babies. If you have a better idea please let me know.

Educating parents-to-be

Personally, I believe in addition to sex-ed, parenting classes should be introduced to high-school students.  [Sex leads to parenting and parenting presents it's own set of problems, stresses and complications.  These are facts that should not be sugar-coated, no matter how much we may want instill a belief that life is good, people are kind, and getting married and having a family is fun, fun , fun.]  As one who got no help from extended family members after the birth of my babies, I believe it would be a great service to teach future potential parents the ways of proper parenting BEFORE pregnancy and birth takes place.  Issues that can be included for the high-school student can relate to other course teachings, like using math skills to figure a monthly budget and writing skills to put imaginary situations into a story.  The point is, there are specific stresses that go along with each step related to sex, and I honestly don't think that many people having sex THINK about what can and will happen once pregnancy becomes a reality.  [Maybe if more teens/young adults were held accountable for their own actions, more would think more carefully about jumping into bed or the back-seat of a car.] 

I would rather be safe than sorry. This is a parents right to choose and all the religious fanatics are saying what we are doing is wrong. What is wrong is that our welfare system is paying for these children.

And what do foster/adoptive parents take before they are agency-approved to take-in a child put in-care? Parenting classes.  [Sad thing is, not all potential parents pay much attention (or even attend) these classes, and many who do, still end-up abusing/neglecting their foster/adopted children!]  I'm told these classes help pre-screen and reduce the risk of future problems.  <Hmm>  Makes better sense to get these classes out sooner than later, especially if The State doesn't want to pay for a parent's neglect, but what do I know?  As far as religious fanatics go, abuse and religion have a very long history.  We may not eliminate abusive ways, but we can reduce the possibility of really bad parenting by providing good quality instruction/intervention programs... educational programs that follow one simple moral rule: "treat others as you would like to be treated".

Bottom line:  Instruction is not just about teaching/learning what or how to do something, good instruction should include what NOT to do, too. 

The US is not alone

In the article, Teen Pregnancy:  a stubborn problem (July 8, 2009), studies have found in spite of advertising campaigns and awareness programs, Britain has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Europe, second only to the United States.  Ironically, the programs used to fight the problem of unwanted teen pregnancy in Britain follow (model after) initiatives used in New York, home of  Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute headquarters.  This failure to reduce the unwanted seems to "baffle experts in the field".

The authors of the evaluation of the government scheme, themselves at a loss for a definite explanation, conclude that similar future programmes might be better targeted at young people in areas of social disadvantage, and that ultimately it is the wider social, economic and educational influences on young people's health that need to be addressed, rather than the behavioural profile itself.

What is clear is that young teens need pathways out of their current lifestyles and habits, rather than programmes simply focused on changing behaviour. If the foundations of their life are shaky or without aspiration, there will be a tendency to continue with escapist patterns of behaviour that produce short-term highs (unprotected sex, drugs or alcohol) to cope with daily lows. There is also the fact that, as US initiatives suggest, programmes need to explicitly target young potential fathers, as well as potential teen mums, to preach a shared message of responsibility. Experience there suggests this is best done in same-sex groups over time, often with staff who can act as wiser role models, and are rooted in the communities they are seeking to help. Interestingly, in the US such initiatives originally emerged more than a decade ago as add-on policy initiatives to welfare-to-work programmes for welfare mums and unemployed fathers.

As the recession continues to bite, and as educational and employment prospects for our nation's youth appear to diminish, it is not hard to imagine a future in which the teen pregnancy rate exponentially increases. What we need now are practical and holistic policy interventions that start with education, training and welfare-to-work initiatives, as well as sex and drugs education in our schools and communities from inspirational community leaders, teachers and practitioners

Imagine...young teens need pathways out of their current lifestyles.  Imagine... teens need to be taught responsibility.  Imagine... habits need to be changed, and teens need positive role models.  Imagine... holistic care is needed, especially when it comes to treating the family unit.  Imagine... only the poor and those on welfare have problems with drugs (street or prescription), alcohol, domestic violence, and neglect.

I would like to imagine public school programs that teach teens how to parent, the RIGHT way, so child abuse, neglect, and abandonment do NOT have to be the normal course of family-living.  And imagine, I didn't need to conduct a large study, (costing a large amount of money), to figure out what kids need is far more supportive interest and mentoring opportunities than what they are actually receiving.

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