Teenage Pregnancy as a Public Issue: Analyzing the Links between Poverty, Social Exclusion, and Government Policies

Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
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Q. Describe and write a critique of any 'personal trouble' and illustrate how the key theoretical concepts raised in this class can help you explain it as a 'public issue'. This assignment will examine issues around social exclusion and teenage pregnancy. It will explore the links between teenage pregnancy, poverty, and how it links into the underclass theory. This assignment will look at the trends in teenage pregnancy in the United Kingdom. It will focus on issues based around assumptions that teenage pregnancy is a personal trouble and a public issue and why teenage pregnancy is a problem and whom it is a problem for.

I will be looking at what the government expectations of young people are and how they hope to raise the aspirations of these young people through education and training. It will examine the government policies and practices in relation to teenage pregnancy whilst critically analysing the implications that these have on teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy according to figures published in S. E. U (1999) are rising dramatically and despite the introduction of compulsory sex education there doesn't seem to be anyway of stopping these figures from further rising.

In England alone there are approximately 90,000 young people getting pregnant, girls under 16 account for about 7,700 of these pregnancies, and approximately 2,200 of these being under 14 years of age. Out of these pregnancies around 3/5,s go to full term and result in live births. If you explore this further the figures show that around 56,00 babies are born each year to teenage mothers. The figures suggest that there are 87,000 children living with teenage mothers in England alone. These statistics are frighteningly high and the government is aiming to halve the rate of teenage pregnancies in nder 18 year olds by the year 2010. Teenage pregnancy occurs in all classes of society but the figures show definite links between teenage pregnancy, being more prevalent in the poorer underclass, and those daughters of single mothers who themselves may have been teenage mothers. These links according to S. E. U (1999) state that ' socialisation and deprivation are two of the main causes of teenage pregnancy.

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' They also state that 'overall teenage parenthood is more common in areas of deprivation and poverty... teenage pregnancy is often a cause and a consequence of social exclusion. Information collated and analysed by the S. E. U enabes us to see how they have reached their theories surrounding teenage pregnancy. It shows how they identified and linked the risk factors to teenage pregnancy and how all of these seem to have an association with the poorest category of society the `underclass`.

The report by the S. E. U (1999) also shows how these risk factors can be seen in geographical concentrations, thus the teenage pregnancy map, ' resembles the distribution of local authorities identified as the most deprived in the unit's report on neighbourhood enewal. ' The map shows that the poorest areas of England have up to more than six times a higher rate of teenage pregnancies than the more affluent areas. The areas outside of London which have been identified has having the highest rates of conception amongst young people are industrial cities which are going through economic recession and ports which are suffering from loss of jobs due to the recent collapse of ship building industries. How does this then prove the government's theory that teenage pregnancy is linked to social exclusion?

A list of factors relating to women in their mid-thirties who had become teenage mothers, the evidence confirms that the vast majority are low achiever's, do not work, single with many being reliant on long term benefits. As a result of this they have not had the opportunity to progress in life and has a result of this are trapped in the cycle of poverty, deprivation and social exclusion. Hence the S. E. U report say 'teenage pregnancy is often the cause and a consequence of social exclusion ... overall teenage parenthood is more common in areas of deprivation and poverty'.

Thus adding weight to the governments argument about teenage pregnancy being a public issue. The figures show that teenage pregnancy is a public issue; the facts show that the UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe. This is three times higher than France and nearly six times higher than Holland. Could this be down to our lack of morals? The fact remains that in Holland if you have a child in your teenage years and out of wedlock the local communities still shun you and there is a lot of social stigma attached to this.

Whilst in the UK teenage pregnancy along with cohabiting has become the `norm` and are more easily accepted, with very little stigma attached to it. The law states that sex under sixteen is unlawful and young women cannot give consent for sexual intercourse to take place. Yet in 2000 there were more than 7,000 young people under sixteen, who had conceived, with over 54% ending in legal abortions. That is a lot of young people participating in an illegal sexual intercourse. Where have all the traditional family values gone? Traditionally people meet, fall in love, get married, have children and become a loving secure family unit.

With the changing trends and loss of family values more than 90% of teenage births are outside of marriage. Thus changing family life has it was and creating a new trend towards single young mothers, children being brought up without permanent father figures, who are dependent upon the state to provide for them unless some changes can be made. The government states that it costs tax payers over i??10 billion each year, the S. E. U reports say that this money could be better spent else where, and that unless we get this phenomena under control we can not support this rising tide of young teenage mothers.

The government has been looking at the Netherlands and the United States for inspiration on how to deal with these issues. The Netherlands have one of the lowest teenage birthrate, they educate young people from a young age and take a more realistic approach to sex education. Compare this to the United States who do not provide support for teenage mothers and have used controversial measures such as forced sterilisation of certain ethnic groups and the family of these young people have to support them financially and emotionally in order for them to survive.

Do young people see it as a problem? Is it an issue for young people? After looking at facts there seems to be no evidence that states it is a problem for the young people themselves, thus it is no big issue for them. Maybe it is just another way for the government to control the lives of young people? The government seems to be saying that teenage mothers are not equipped with the skills and knowledge to become competent parents, but who decides what makes a good parent, how can age be a deciding factor in good and bad parenting.

So is it just an assumption that teenage pregnancy is a problem, functionalists would argue that it is just a process of socialisation and that if the young people aspirations could be raised then they would be able to break the cycle. Durkheim's anomie theory (1951: 273) seems to suggest 'that a condition of normalness arises when a disruption of the social order occurs... so that they are no longer controlled by the collective social order. ' Compare this to Merton's anomie (1938:53) ' the roots of which lie in a structural strain, generated by differential access to opportunity structures.

Currently young girls who have little or no education and very few plans for the future are 30% more likely to get pregnant than those who aspire to gain qualifications and are well educated. Not being educated, in training or work are factors that are seen as being a negative influence on young girls and thus the risk of them becoming pregnant rises. Teenagers from socially deprived, poor families are less likely to have abortions compared to the young girls from more affluent families has they have higher aspirations in life and also have the funds to pay for private abortions.

The lack of aspirations in the poorer young girls life, can lead them to believe that they can do nothing else and also if it was not a personal trouble for their mother then why should they expect anything else in life. Evidence seems to support the socialisation theory, with young girls often having no prospects due to lack of education, family support to break the cycle, believing that this is the way life is that this is all that life has to offer them and seeing that this is the way their life has been apped out for them.

The lack of knowledge and confidence can also stop young girls from accessing services, which are available to them, and this just reinforces the negativity within their lives. As a result of finding themselves pregnant many young girls from poorer backgrounds, are less likely to continue with their education, compared to the young girls from more affluent homes who are expected to succeed in education and already have a prosperous career mapped out for them by their parents and peers.

As a result of this young mothers from poor areas, start to become trapped in the cycle of poverty, with no way of supporting themselves and child they find themselves in the benefit trap. If they wait until the child is old enough to start school, returning to education is extremely hard and most training and apprenticeships are only open to school leavers. So with no experience, qualifications, expensive childcare and limited employment options due to most young mothers only being able to afford to work during the school time hours which are usually the lowest paid jobs the poverty trap begins a down ward spiral of debt and depravation.

Therefore becoming a single teenage mother is a stigma and figures show them to be a burden on society hence a public issue. Are teenage mothers to blame for the creation of the emerging underclass in society? Teenage young mothers are often referred to as being a contributing factor in creating the underclass. The underclass theory (Murray 1980) describes this as ` people who are at the bottom of the social ladder, structurally separate and culturally distinguishable from the `decent` working class `.

Murray (1980) discovered this new class of people in the 80's and he labelled them as the new underclass in Britain. He blames this emerging underclass on the over zealous welfare state system, which was set up to provide relief from poverty, not provide people with an alternative way of life. Where has Marx (1951) suggests that` we are born into a social class... which are modified locally by region and neighbourhood`. Thus the teenage mothers cannot be to blame for the creation of the underclass, which adds viability to the theory put forward by Murray.

The result of this theory is that there are now younger single parent families due to the ability to support themselves through the benefit system. Murray (1980) goes on to say that before the welfare system started to increase the level of provision there were few single parent families because they were not economically viable. He states `that the more generous benefits have made it possible for women to have children outside of marriage... therefore the welfare state is to blame for this phenomenon.

Thus he argues that the benefit system is to blame for single parents and they are a contributing factor of the underclass theory. Charles Murray (1980) goes on to say that we are creating a culture of dependency and if the benefits were taken away from single parents, it would discourage young people from becoming pregnant and is a possible solution to stop further development of the underclass. Many other people believe that young girls get pregnant on purpose in order to gain priority in the housing and benefits system.

There are many flaws in Murray's (1980) theory the main one being that single teenage parents is seen in all class stratification and is not exclusive to the underclass element of society. Statistics show that young people do not start to enquire about benefits and housing prior to getting pregnant therefore these facts are not a forethought to getting pregnant. Research shows that most teenage pregnancies are not planned and young people seem to rarely plan for the future until after they are pregnant so they are very unlikely to have become pregnant in order to obtain benefits.

Liberal thinking social theorists argues that the idea of an underclass diverts attention away from what the real issues are and the disadvantages experienced by certain groups of people in society especially young people from working class backgrounds. The conservatives denied poverty existed, so why is there a need for a welfare state and where is the emerging underclass. Labour said that it is just a lack of means to work that causes poverty, thus justifying the need for a welfare state and acknowledging the `underclass` exists.

Other political groups outside these seem to blame poor education, bad housing unemployment, and family breakdown has main reasons why people become dependent on benefits and thus the underclass theory serves a purpose to hide the real causes of teenage pregnancy and social exclusion. Teenage pregnancy is a cause of and consequence of social exclusion, these young people share the values as everyone else unfortunately they have limited opportunities and are therefore restricted in plans for their future.

These young people are deemed to be suffering from inequalities in life and are victims of an unjust society, which fails to ensure a fairer distribution of opportunities and resources. Poverty and social exclusion has a direct affect on the choices young women make about abortion and sex education, and if all young people had the same opportunities and options open to them when they find themselves pregnant or prior to having sex then maybe the rate of teenage pregnancies would fall.

If young women have a clear vision about their future, their options in life explained clearly through education and training then they will have nothing to gain by choosing early parenthood. Whereas young people with no job prospects, poor education, who expects to be on benefits anyway might see that having a baby is going to provide them with a better future. The government are under pressure to cut the rate of teenage pregnancies as currently the UK has the highest rate in the western world.

So what can the government do when the media seems to undermine all the initiatives that the labour government have come up with? All the media misrepresentation has altered the public's perception of teenage pregnancy and how the sex education program is delivered. The general consensus seems to be that Pregnancy advice is right, just the tactics used to deliver it are wrong. The media has highlighted this issue, alongside figures pointing out the amount of money currently being spent to deliver these services. It implies that all the time and money is being wasted has teenage pregnancy rates continue to ise.

The media seems to be blaming the government for wasting money and accusing them of being dictators to young people The Daily Mail newspaper reports "60 million to tell girls that it is okay to be a virgin" how can this reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy, this nanny government is wasting money telling young people how to their lives. Whilst the girls are being advised to stay virgins they are not being told about sex and how it could affect them in their future and the message to boys is that sex is okay just wear a condom so the gap between the genders just keeps getting reinforced.

The government have responded to this positively by bringing out new policies and are changing ways of delivering this service to youngpeople these include: Compulsory sex education: Sex education in schools is to become compulsory part of the national curriculum and will be taught alongside reading, writing, maths and science. The fact that it is compulsory seems to indicate that all children are being taught sex education but this is not so as parents can opt to remove their children if they so wish to. So were is the compulsory part? Should it be given to all children regardless to what a parent may feel?

It is a civil right for every young person to be educated, so why is the choices to learn about sex being taken away from the young person, Why does a parent have the right to dictate to the young person what they need to learn to become a responsible adult later in life? Without sex education how can a child make the transition through adolescence from a child to a teenager who has a need to experiment sexually safely? To conclude, teenage pregnancy is a personal personal and a public issue. Many adoloscents I think fell trapped in a viscious circle.

However I think that social exclusion and teenage pregnance are inextricably linked and these terms cannot be separated. The government have reccomended that young people should have better access to sex advice and other issues based around sex education. This is good practice but these clinics are not available countrywide, it is up to individual schools and parents to decide whether or not this service is should be available. On the other hand would these clinics encourage young people to have sex which would create an even bigger public issue?

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Teenage Pregnancy as a Public Issue: Analyzing the Links between Poverty, Social Exclusion, and Government Policies. (2017, Nov 21). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/assignment-will-examine-issues-around-social-exclusion-teenage-pregnancy/

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