Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Babies Having Babies:A Look at Factors Among African American and White Adolescent Females

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Babies Having Babies


My cousin was barely seventeen; it was her last year of high school. She was 4.0-honor role student and in every club you could think of. All her hard work paid off and she was granted an almost full scholarship to attend Marquette University. Everyone knew she would be the big success of the family. She would be the one in the family to “make it big”…nothing could stop her…or so she thought. She became pregnant the summer before her senior year; it was a shock to the whole family. After all her dad was a pastor and mother a teacher, and with her reputation, well things like this don’t happen to people like that. However it did, the question is why. Why with many options (I.E. contraception) to prevent pregnancy, are so many babies…having babies?


Contraception


Contraception is defined as the deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation by any various drugs, techniques or devices; birth control. Effective Contraception use generally requires planning and preparation prior to having sexual intercourse. It has been around for many years. However if birth control is so available the why do so many adolescents continue to become pregnant? Birth control failure is very high, but it maybe due to uncontrollable factors. Such factors may include that health care providers may not take the time to educate their patients on the proper usage of birth control; no method (except abstinence) is truly 100% effective and other factors like ones upbringing or environment can play a role in ones use or misuse of birth control. While others just think that pregnancy is something that “can’t happen to me” and just choose not to use any type of contraception.


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Approximately 45% of all unplanned pregnancies are due to the lack of any contraception being used and 55% of unplanned pregnancies are as a result of ineffective misuse of birth control. According to the National Black Women’s Health Project, African American Females are two to three times more likely than white females to conceive during their adolescent years.


Two types of contraception and statistical usage.


The pill. It is a monthly series in which one takes one pill a day. These pills keep the ovaries from releasing an egg. This prevents the sperm from joining with an egg or in some cases a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. If taken correctly the pill can be .% effective. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance of the United States in 1; white female students reported the highest use of the pill at 5. % compared to African American females at 11. % across 41 states.


The condom. Condoms, which require the least amount of advanced planning, are used more than any other method on contraception. Condoms are a thin rubber tube which fits over the mans erect penis before intercourse. When the man ejaculates, he does so into the condom, which prevents the sperm from entering the vagina. When condoms are used properly, they are about 5% effective in the prevention of pregnancy. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance of the United States in 1, African American students reported the highest use of condoms 64.5% compared to white females at 47% across 41 states.


Sexual activity.


A lot of attention has been devoted to identify factors associated with pregnancy among unmarried adolescents. Most young people in the United States are engaging in sexual intercourse during their adolescent years. Among sexually active adolescents, the degree of pregnancy risk depends mostly on their frequency of intercourse and consistent use of effective birth control. The younger the age of sexual intercourse, greater the risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.


Those that begin having sex at a young age are generally exposed to risk for a longer time, are less likely to use birth control, and generally have more sexual partners. Among African American and white adolescents, African American women on average have experience sexual intercourse two year earlier than white adolescents. “Thus, between the ages of fifteen through nineteen, African American teenage girls, overall, have a rate of sexual intercourse twice that of white teenage girls” (Wilson).


On page seven you find a graph of percentage of high school students who engaged in sexual behaviors in the 1 United States Youth Risk Behavior Survey. You will see that only 44.8% of white adolescent teens had sexual intercourse compared to African American females at 66.% and of those females 4.7% of whites and 50.% of African American females were currently sexually active during the time of the survey.


Family influences on sexual activity.


Ones family and their structure can have a major influence on an adolescent’s sexual behavior. A strong relationship and high levels of support between adolescents and their parents creates a stable and emotional feeling on the home front. Thus this may reduce the adolescents desire to seek alternative intimate relationships. However a modeling hypothesis suggests that we learn how to interact in dating relationships through conscious and unconscious observations. Children in married households receive more monitoring than children in single and cohabitating households. In two parent households there are fewer opportunities to engage in sexual behavior between the parents due to greater supervision and monitoring. However in unmarried households adolescents tend to watch there parents dating or cohabitation rituals and mimic as they are exploring their own romantic relationships.


Although parents may not agree with the idea of their children conceiving at such a young age, African American families are said to be more supportive. Because African American adolescents are more likely to keep their child and not marry their babies’ father they remain in the parent’s home. While some whites stay at the parents home most are likely to abort, give the baby up for adoption, marry the father or choose to raise their baby on their own due to lack of surrounding parental support.


Childbearing


Adolescent child bearing outside of marriage has been on the rise for several decades and at a very rapid pace. The issue with adolescent pregnancy is that the overwhelming majority of adolescents do not wish to become pregnant this soon. Once teenagers become parents, they face a new set of challenges. Teen mothers and their children are at higher risk for many difficulties than their non-parent peers. Nevertheless, teenage childbearing adds to the limited prospects of already disadvantage adolescents. These outcomes include lower rates of school completion, additional non-marital births, less stable employment and higher rates of poverty. Young mothers also have lower levels of marital stability and are more likely to divorce; thus teenage mothers overall spend more of their parenting years as single mothers than those whom delay their child bearing (Coley, Chase-Lansdale).


While data suggest that teens do not plan on getting pregnant, several indicators suggest that races differences do exist in that adaptation of teen birth. The African American community has been found to be more accepting of teen childbearing once the child is born. For example the relatively high occurrence of multi-generational family among African Americans provides greater opportunity for extended family involvement in parenting. African Americans rely more on relatives and extended family networks than do whites (Henly).


Socioeconomic Factors.


That underlying determination, or lack of it, may be heavily influenced by an adolescent’s perception of economic possibilities. Life experiences associated with poverty, such as alienation at school, prevalent models of unmarried parenthood and unemployment, and lack of educational opportunities and stable career prospects, all serve as leading factors to early motherhood. However there are different influences between African American and white females. For example, while both African Americans and whites benefit from increased levels of education and income, the returns to income and educational advances are smaller for African Americans. Girls who are born raised in poverty, by single parents and by parents with low educational attainment are prone to teenage parenthood. Also black poverty is relatively long lasting, whereas white poverty is more of a temporary event. African Americans and whites of similar socioeconomic status live in neighborhoods of different quality and experience quite different social contexts. Motherhood is also more acceptable in the African American community, but in the white community it breaks the norm. “African American females growing up in the poorest, most crime ridden neighborhoods find that having a baby gives them a status and someone to love” (Wilson).


Conclusion


Adolescence is usually too young an age to become a parent in the contemporary United States. This is largely because raising a child takes patience and resources that are acquired in advanced societies gradually with age, education, and experience. Moreover, among adolescents, it is those who are least well prepared to nurture and raise children who are most likely to become parents. That is, adolescents who are not doing well in school, who have low aspirations for their own educational attainment, and who live in economically disadvantaged families and communities tend to initiate sexual intercourse at younger ages, contracept less effectively, and have unintended pregnancies. When pregnancy occurs, higher risk adolescents are also the most likely to bear children, particularly outside of marriage.


Given that African Americans and whites live in very different social contexts, regardless of socioeconomic status, it is not surprising that these two groups display different rates of teenage pregnancy. However, in spite of the race parenting is demanding because meeting the needs of children, let alone maximizing their potential, requires personal, social, and economic resources. Thus, becoming a parent too soon, before adult abilities are attained and before the necessary resources are acquired, usually poses problems for children and their young parents. Although contraception is available to almost anyone, many adolescent do not have the available resource or opportunities, while others just believe that pregnancy couldn’t happen to them.


One way we could help our adolescent is by having more prevention programs to aid adolescents in preventing sexual activity or practicing safer sex in general. Parents also need to talk to their children about the risk of sexual activity and help them gain access to contraceptives if they are or will be sexually active in the future. I have heard that motherhood can be a beautiful thing, but if you’re too young (I.E. to be able to care and provide for the child) you may not get the chance to experience its beauty.


BIBLIOGRAPHY


Coley, Rebekah Levine, Chase-Lansdale, Lindsay P. Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenthood Recent Evidence and Future Directions. Illinois The Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies


Julia Henly, Comparative Research on Adolescent Childbearing Understanding


Race Differences http//www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/prba/persp/spring15/jhenly.pdf


Wilson, Midge. Divided Sisters Bridging the Gap Between Black And White Women. New York Boubleday, 16. Pages 1,


http//www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss405a1.htm Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance --- United States, 1


http//www.nbwhp.org/healthissues/fs-teenpreg.htm. National Black Women’s Health Project African American Women and Adolescent Pregnancy, April 7,00


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