Teenage Pregnancy Doesn’t Have To Mean Catastrophe – Research Shows It Can Be An Opportunity
The idea that a teenage can have a baby is seen as both a personal and social disaster. The continued decline of teenage births is a policy success. However, research shows that the truth is quite different.
Because having a baby when you are a teenager has little impact on your future social outcomes. Positive attitudes towards parenting are common among teens, both from their fathers and mother. Many also change their behaviour. One teenage mother who was interviewed for a research study said it:
Your life doesn’t end just because you have a baby. I feel more motivated to pursue a career than just a job.
Teenage parents and disadvantage
Statistically, teenage motherhood is linked to low educational attainment and low employment, low wages, poor health, social disadvantage, and low socioeconomic status. Many “official” accounts echo this message. This is not true. These outcomes aren’t due to young mothers having poor outcomes. Instead, they are caused by social disadvantage.
This is an example illustrating the “selection impact” often seen in social stats. Social disadvantage “selected” certain young women to become teenage moms. These selection effects are not controlled for in statistical studies, which can lead to misleading conclusions about cause-and-effect.
Numerous statistical studies have been conducted in the United States to examine these selection effects. Researchers set up “natural experiments” which included comparisons of twin sisters who only had one mother or between teenage women and those who had conceived while they were teenagers but miscarried. These studies could also be used to study the effects on mothers who later became mothers. The researchers found that social outcomes were not affected by the mother’s birth age. Saul Hoffman, a researcher, said that teenage parenthood was often “almost zero” in his systematic analysis.
According to one study, teenage mothers in the US performed better than their miscarried teenagers when it came to income and employment by their late 20s. This means that teenager parenting results in lower state spending over the long-term. British studies later used the “natural experiment” approach to arrive at similar results.
Researchers found that the teen birth did not have any impact on women’s earnings, education, or qualifications. A teenage mother’s ability to have poor cognitive skills or poor health in preschool did not affect their chances of having children who are not well-adjusted.
There is no way to accurately measure the impact of teenage motherhood. These studies do not prove that teenage motherhood is an economic problem.
A positive experience
This is based on research from the past that looks at teenage parents’ experiences. It shows that many teenage parents are positive and can change their behavior. According to studies, many teenage mothers find motherhood “positively transformative” while their baby is a “stabilizing influence”.
The groundbreaking US study of teenage mothers found that having a baby was a symbol for hope and escape from a past that is difficult to forget. However, this was only a temporary solution that eventually led to their despair and pre-pregnancy despair.
The other end of the spectrum was the group with more resources and family. They found that although their pre-pregnancy plans were complicated by the birth of a baby they were strengthened. Motherhood proved to be a beneficial experience for “middle-group” teens. These mothers said they had gotten off drugs and returned to school. They also disassociated themselves from dangerous friendships and reexamined their destructive behavior.
British studies later found similar results: Teenage motherhood increases self-esteem and provides stability. Mothers had “grownup”, they were more confident in themselves and had begun to plan for and pursue further education. Teenage pregnancy is not a disaster. It was more of a turning point toward maturity and a new career. It helped to overcome stigma and constraints, and was a sign of strength.
This illustrates how teenage parenting can be a problem rather than a cause. Some young people may find that it is a path out of the disadvantage. It is better to support all parents than assume the inadequacies.