You will be stunned how teenage pregnancy impacts our community, our state and our nation.
The United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world. While teen pregnancy is declining in the United States it is still nine times higher than most other industrialized nations. Recent numbers report 330,000 babies born to teens ages 15 to 19.
An article in the April 2013 edition of the California Department of Education reports, “current annual total net costs to society of teenage pregnancy in California runs $3.8 billion.” Think this doesn’t impact your life?
The cost to taxpayers is indeed great, but the heavy cost to the baby-born-to-teen unwed mothers is even greater. Teen mothers tend to experience more pregnancy-related problems and have less healthy infants. Infant mortality is greater for babies born to teens. In comparison, the average infant mortality rates among adult women are at 6.7 infant deaths per 100,000 births of which most would be contributed to drug use, smoking and or/other health factors. (CDC, 2010). Eight out of 10 fathers never marry the mother of their children.
Teen mothers are more likely to have a second child while still a teen. “Preschool children of teen mothers tend to show some delay in cognitive development as well as more behavior problems and more aggressive behavior than children of older mothers.” In addition, adolescent children of teen mothers experience high rates of grade failure, delinquency, and early sexual activity. Therefore continuing the cycle of teen pregnancy. Children of parents with low educational attainment, occupation and income are more likely to have sex at an early age, not use contraception consistently, and become pregnant or cause a pregnancy. You would be shocked how many teens believe you can’t get pregnant the first time you “do it.” A large number of teen girls state no one ever talked to them about having sex, or the many challenges a young teen faces. They have never learned they can simply “say no” or that sex does not equal love. A stunning number of these teens were sexually molested, abused or raped. The father of the baby is often three to four years older than the teen mother.
I chair a Teenage Pregnancy Program at the Oceanside Boys & Girls Club. The facts are very clear, young people who are involved in the many after school programs and who participate in the Boys & Girls Clubs are far more likely to graduate from high school and often encouraged to wait until after graduation to start a family.
This is your community. Talk to your teen now! You help to shape public opinion and support the various groups who play a major role in taking care of the young people in our community. May is National Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month. Part of our job is to let you know that you are needed. Talk to your young people. Sexual activity often starts before they even become a teen. Pregnancy is not the only concern.
Sexually transmitted disease is taking a toll on our young people. These are things you don’t even want to think about, but our teens and pre teens are facing these challenges. They are too young to know all of the risks they are taking when having sex, often these kids don’t even believe the sex they have is even really sex. Information is so available at two wonderful clinics here in North County. Both North County Health Services and Vista Community Clinic serve this region well. Taking your teen to one of these clinics could be an eye opener. We are in great need for community support since funding for some of the teenage programs are drying up.
Someone once said “it takes a village” and indeed it does. We ask you to talk to your own family, teens and pre teens. Protect them! Nothing is so powerful as education. Can you even imagine your 15 year old son coming home and announces over dinner “hey, I’m going to be a father!” Most young boys never think that sexual encounter could make him financially responsible for that baby until it turns 18 years old. Wow! We really need to open the dialogue.
There is so much help out there, you only need to ask.
Mary Steiger is an Oceanside resident and chairs the Teenage Pregnancy Program at the Oceanside Boys & Girls Club.