? Essay, Research Paper
Teen pregnancy is a quite big problem in the society. How bad is the problem? The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births in the western industrialized world. Teen pregnancy costs the United States at least $7 billion annually. Four in 10 young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20? nearly one million a year. Eight in ten of these pregnancies are unintended and 79 percent are to unmarried teens. The teen birth rate has declined slowly but steadily from 1991 to 1998 with an overall decline of 18 percent for those aged 15 to 19 and preliminary data for 1999 show a 20 percent decline between 1991-99. These recent declines reverse the 24-percent rise in the teenage birth rate from 1986 to 1991. The largest decline since 1991 by race was for black women. The birth rate for black teens aged 15 to 19 fell 26 percent between 1991 and 1998. Hispanic teen birth rates declined 13 percent between 1994 and 1998. The rates of both Hispanics and blacks, however, remain higher than for other groups. Hispanic teens now have the highest teenage birth rates. In addition, despite the recent declines in teen birth rates in general, the overall teen birth rate for 1998 is still higher than it was in the mid 1980s when the rate was at its lowest point. Also, most teenagers giving birth before 1980 were married whereas most teens giving birth today are unmarried. The younger a teenaged girl is when she has sex for the first time, the more likely she is to have had unwanted or non-voluntary sex. Close to four in ten girls who had first intercourse at 13 or 14 report it was either non-voluntary or unwanted.
The primary reason that teenage girls who have never had intercourse give for abstaining from sex is that having sex would be against their religious or moral values. Other reasons cited include desire to avoid pregnancy, fear of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and not having met the appropriate partner.13 Three of four girls and over half of boys report that girls who have sex do so because their boyfriends want them to. Teenagers who have strong emotional attachments to their parents are much less likely to become sexually active at an early age. Contraceptive use among sexually active teens has increased but remains inconsistent. Two-thirds of teens use some method of contraception (usually a condom) the first time they have sex. A sexually active teen who does not use contraception has a 90 percent chance of pregnancy within one year.
Lots of teens drink. Many start drinking in junior high and get drunk often. More than half of 8th graders and eight of ten 12th graders have tried alcohol. Nearly 1/3 of all high school seniors say that most or all of their friends get drunk at least once a week. Many girls lose their virginity while drunk – and don’t use protection. Many of those become pregnant or do things they wouldn’t do when sober. Many young women say that they used alcohol – or were even drunk – when they first had sex. And many of these same young women say that they were so drunk that they were unable to use birth control (especially condoms) properly at the time. In one study of unplanned pregnancies in 14-21 year olds, 1/3 of the girls who had gotten pregnant had been drinking when they had sex; 91% of them reported that the sex was unplanned. Sexually experienced teens who average five or more drinks daily are three times less likely to use condoms.
Rates of teen pregnancy and birth have been steadily declining since the early 90s, driven by fewer teens having sex and more sexually active teens using contraception effectively. Our first priority should always be to encourage teens to delay sexual activity to protect their physical health, their emotional health, and their opportunities for the future. However, no matter how much encouragement we give young people to say “no,” many will still become sexually active. Here are some of the most compelling issues in our challenge to convince sexually active teens to use contraception. Many sexually active teens use contraception inconsistently or not at all. Some 31 percent of teen girls were completely unprotected the last time they had sex, and one-third of sexually active teens who do use contraception use it inconsistently. Contraceptive use at first sex has increased but contraceptive use at most recent sex has decreased. Decisions about contraception happen within relationships. More than one-half of teens (51.7 percent) surveyed recently said that one of the main reasons that teens do not use birth control is because their partners don’t want to. The younger the teen, the less likely he or she will be to use contraception or to use it effectively. Of particular concern is that while teen sexual activity is down (or has leveled off) among most teens, it has risen slightly among those younger than 15, the group least likely to use contraception. Teaching teens about contraception does not make them have sex. Research is clear on this point: sex education does not increase sexual activity. In fact, in some cases, teaching teens about contraception seems to delay their sexual activity. And teaching young people the facts about contraception is not necessarily inconsistent with a strong abstinence message. Access to contraception is necessary but not sufficient. Restricting sexually active teens from having access to contraception would be a mistake, but simply making contraceptive methods available to teens is not enough to motivate them to protect themselves. Research suggests that making contraceptives available to teens in schools does not increase their sexual activity, but it also doesn’t seem to markedly increase sexually active teens’ use of contraception either.
What teens want from their parents? Begin the conversation about sex when they’re young and maintain an open-door policy as they get older. Teach them by what you do, not just by what you say. Give them good, honest answers in a straightforward way. What teens want from schools? The information schools give them about their bodies and about sex, pregnancy, and STDs is really helpful. But they want more than “The Miracle of Birth” film. In other words, they wouldn’t mind if you took things to the next level. What teens want from themselves? They understand that they can’t ask of others what they aren’t ready to do themselves. They should seek information to help them make healthy decisions, rather than blame other people when something goes wrong. They should be responsive to, and respectful of, their parents. More than anything, they need to take responsibility for their own actions. They can’t wait for change? They need to make it happen.