The Increase of Teenage Pregnancy
Teenage parenthood is by no means a new social phenomenon. Historically, women have tended to begin childbearing during their teens and early twenties. During the past two decades the U. S. teenage birthrate has actually declined (Polit and others, 1982). In the late 1950s, 90 out of 1000 women under 20 gave birth as compared with 52 out of 1000 in 1978. Several factors contribute to the current attention focused on teenage pregnancy and parenthood.
There is currently a large number of young women in the 13 to 19 age range, so that while the birthrates are declining, the absolute number of teenagers is increasing.
These statistics do not distinguish between intentional and unintentional pregnancies, or pregnancies occurring in or out of wedlock. From the 1978 figures, only one in six pregnancies concluded as births following marriage, and eight in ten premarital teenage pregnancies were unintended.
The declining birthrate is not consistent for all teenagers: among those 14 or younger, the birthrate is increasing.
These trends are occurring at a time when contraceptives are increasingly available to teenagers as a means of avoiding unwanted pregnancy.
The evidence documenting the unfavorable consequences of unintended teenage pregnancy and teenage parenthood, whether intended or not, has continued to mount.
There is an unmistakable and dramatic trend away from teenagers giving their children up for adoption.
Teenage Pregnancy Rate
Of the 29 million young people between the ages of 13 and 19, approximately 12 million have had sexual intercourse. Of this group, in 1981, more than 1.1 million became pregnant; three- quarters of these pregnancies were unintended, and 434,000 ended in abortion (What Government Can Do, 1984). The number of pregnancies increased among teenagers in all age groups during the 1970s, but among those who were sexually active the pregnancy rate has been declining. Because of increased and more consistent use of contraceptives by teenagers, the rate of pregnancy among them has been increasing more slowly than their rate of sexual activity. Although the number of teenagers who are sexually active increased by two-thirds over the 1970s, over half of U.S. teenagers are sexually inactive (Teenage Pregnancy, 1981).
About five percent of U. S. teenagers give birth each year. A recent study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute showed teen birthrates here to be twice as high as Canada, England, and Wales, three times as high as Sweden, and seven times higher than the Netherlands.
Out of Wedlock Births
Although slowed because of the availability of legal abortion, the rise in the out-of-wedlock birthrate has continued among almost all groups of teenagers. The rise has been steepest among 15- to 17-year-old whites. The number of premaritally conceived births legitimated by marriage has been Adoption and Care by Others. Almost all unwed teenage mothers keep...