Continuing my interview with producer, Kristen Grieco Elworthy on the teen pregnancy story that made international headlines and is now a documentary:
Why did those who got pregnant want to get pregnant as a teen?
What was my own observation, as a woman about 10 years older than these girls who personally put college/career above having kids? I saw some level of girls who did not have an identity or maybe did not feel that they were “good” at anything, and motherhood was an answer for them. As women, we are told that we all have the capability to be a good mother. Imagine the draw of that…
…if you are feeling that you have no other purpose in life. This type of theory is supported by research. I should add that no statement I’m making describes all the girls, but I personally felt that some fell into this category.
Those who became mothers, what are their lives like now?
This question brings up a good point. Not all 18 girls did end up having their children. The exact numbers are still a bit sketchy and we’re not sure of why some babies were not delivered due to medical privacy laws.
The girls who did have their children have very varied lives. Some still live with their parents. Others live with boyfriends (either the fathers of their children or new men). Some are alone. They all struggle day to day with being parents at such a young age, most have not pursued higher education and they work retail, etc. to make ends meet.
For the most part, these girls live for their kids. They seem to truly be trying to do the right thing–but it’s easy to see that they have it far rougher than someone in a more traditional situation, or someone who at least had the chance to finish their education and start earning some sort of income before being thrust into parenthood.
The occurrence of second and even third children among these girls is FAR higher than the national average of 25%. We are taping some updates now and may recut the film to include why this might be the case. We also want to update to show what has happened to these girls once the cameras went away. By revisiting them, we give them another chance to complete their stories, which I think are really important to understanding the psyche of teen mothers.
What does the film tell us about teen pregnancy today?
Every girl in our film told a different story, but there are some universal truths that we saw about teen pregnancy. First, it’s so important to give girls self-confidence and a vision for the future. They can be moms, and great ones at that, but that should not be looked at as the “default” necessarily. Give them the confidence to pursue education and a career, because all of us should have the ability to support ourselves–and our children.
Having open, honest conversations about teen pregnancy is so important. Twenty percent of all teen pregnancies ARE intentional–that number is huge! And with 750,000 girls getting pregnant in the U.S. each year, that percentage is particularly significant. But teen pregnancy affects more than just the mom. The child is the biggest collateral; kids of teen parents just don’t do as well in school, aren’t as healthy, are more likely to face teen pregnancy, poverty, and even incarceration, studies show.
And for the rest of us? The effects of teen pregnancy cost billions of dollars of taxpayer money a year. It’s a problem that we should all be interested in facing and fixing.
To her idea of sending the message that motherhood should not be looked at as the “default,” I say amen to that. My post interview musings on this topic to come…
Check out the film at prescreen.com and the film’s facebook page.
What are your thoughts about teen pregnancy today?
Laura, thanks for posting this. I can’t help wondering if any of the parents of these teenage mothers talked to their daughters about the importance of a good high school and post-high school education before the girls got pregnant.
I find it sad that so many girls don’t seem to have a strong supportive family that will encourage them to finish all of their education and to caution girls on the hazards of sex in either middle or high school. It just seems to me that too many parents only tell girls to “just say no” to sex without telling them WHY sex in middle or high school is a bad idea. Then they wonder why their daughters end up getting pregnant and having a baby long before they’re ready for such a tremendous responsibility.
What so many teen girls don’t seem to know is that while birth control can prevent unwanted pregnancy most of the time, NO contraceptive method is 100% guaranteed against it. Girls get the idea that because they’re using BC they’ll never get pregnant, and we all know that’s not the case. Birth control can and DOES fail occasionally. I think too many girls aren’t aware of that fact until it is too late.
Thanks, Susan. I post things like this because I think it is so important to know about and be part of putting the message out there that young men and women need to know that parenthood is not the answer to any problem they think they have at that stage in life! It is an example of not being to enter parenthood and we need to do a better job of reinforcing responsible reproduction. As you say, more parents need to do a better job so that young women in particular think they will feel better about themselves if thye become a mother….Oh I could go on but will in a post soon : )
I certainly agree, and in far too many cases, teen pregnancy followed by teen motherhood makes whatever problems a girl might have had much worse than before.
In an essay I wrote for another blog, I expressed my feelings on why I believe teen abstinence is a winning advantage for both girls and guys. If you’re interested, I can either post it here or if you prefer, I can email it to you so you can look at it first and decide if it is appropriate. If not, that’s okay too.
I wrote it because I felt if more teens start looking at abstinence from all sexual activity as a winning advantage for them, we might start to see a reduction in the number of teen pregnancies and teen moms.
Susan, what is the link to the essay on the other blog?
Laura, here’s the link you requested, which goes directly to the essay. The person who created this blog wrote a brief introductory paragraph first.
What an excellent article. It also totally relates to using other methods of birth control…although of course abstinence is bullet proof ; ) Thanks for sharing it.
Thanks, Laura, for your kind words on the essay. While I wish that all teens would look at abstinence from sexual activity with partners as a winning advantage for them, I know that many of them will not. I do hope that any teens engaging in sexual activity would at least use some form of contraceptive method to prevent pregnancy as much as humanly possible.
By the way, did you know that ex-Senator Rick Santorum has publicly made a pledge to defund contraception? Here’s the link to a recent article, if you want to check it out:
I like how you rame the benefits of not getting pregnant as creating a host of freedoms to the girls’ lives…as for Santorum, it is scary that someone like that is running for Pres….
I shouldnt be judgemental living myself in a country thats far from perfect but I find this article and the other associated womens health violations talked about really upsetting. Does this really represent the majority of Americans? Is this really where the country is headed.
how will this help improve the future prospects of Americans… makes me so angry
oops I mean the article for Rick Santorum…how do these people get to where they are