Teenage pregnancy results from women under the age of 20 having sexual intercourse and becoming pregnant. Barring medical and physical concerns, problems of teenage pregnancy arise from individual, family, and social factors. These include but are not limited to culture, religion, moral values and beliefs, law, education, economic circumstances, lack of support structures (including access to care and other resources), and mental and emotional well-being. Data supporting teen pregnancy as a social problem in industrial nations include lower educational levels, higher rates of poverty, and other poorer "life outcomes" in children of teenage mothers.
Age and moral issues are often conflated in views of the problem of teenage pregnancy. Many believe that teenagers (and others) should not engage in sexual activity until marriage. Teenage pregnancy in industrial nations is usually outside of marriage, and it carries a social stigma in many communities and cultures for that reason. The rates of teenage pregnancy also vary widely within many countries. For example, in the UK, the 2002 teenage pregnancy rate was as high as 100.4 per thousand young women in the London Borough of Lambeth, and as low as 20.2 in the Midlands local authority area of Rutland. As an example, in the state of Texas, it is illegal for teens to have sexual intercourse even if it is consensual. Punishment often includes juvenile prison for the male teen and community service for the female.
It appears that such laws have a minimal effect on teenage pregnancies with one study citing a reduction of only 0.9%.
Sex and relationships education
Health educators have long argued that sex education (about contraception and safer sexual behaviours) would effectively reduce the number of teenage pregnancies. Countries that do use progressive sex education at a young age, such as the Netherlands, do have a much lower rate of teenage pregnancy than the United States and the United Kingdom. However, there are many confounding factors such as ethnicity, available social support systems and contraception, and so forth that make comparisons difficult. Proponents of progressive sex education hold that providing young people with sexual information allows them to make their own choices about whether or not to have sex, not to be rushed into having sex without realizing the consequences, and to be able to use contraception when they eventually do choose to have sex.
Becoming a teenage mother
Being a teenage mother can be difficult. Many face prejudice and stigma from their communities. In the UK, most teenage mothers live in poverty, and nearly half are in the bottom fifth of the income distribution. 90% of teenage parent families live on state benefits, but teenage mothers are entitled to approximately £20 less per week than mothers over the age of 25.
Although there has been much press interest in the issue of teenage abortion in the UK, the rates of teenage abortion are relatively low. In 2004, the under-16 abortion rate was 3.7 per 1000 young women, and the under-18 rate was 17.8.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 30% of teenage pregnancies in the United States result in abortions.
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