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OPINION | Concept of 'Teenage Pregnancy' is 'Prejudicial, Counterproductive,' Opinion Piece Says

OPINION | Concept of 'Teenage Pregnancy' is 'Prejudicial, Counterproductive,' Opinion Piece Says
[July 15, 2008]

The concept of "teenage pregnancy" is "stigmatizing, prejudicial" and "counterproductive" and should be abandoned by advocates aiming to reduce unplanned pregnancies among teenagers, Mike Males, a researcher for the online information service, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece.

According to Males, the term is counterproductive because it "perpetuates pre-1950s sexist misnomers" that the partners involved in teenage pregnancy are in high school. According to the California Center for Health Statistics, a "large majority of male partners involved in teenage pregnancy are not the high school boys frequently blamed, but men ages 20 and older," Males writes, adding that instead of "criticizing the 'high rate of teenage pregnancy' in the U.S., shouldn't we be condemning the 'high rate of adults impregnating teens?'" According to Males, in an "era of gender equality -- in which men are expected to share in sexual responsibility and child-raising -- why is a 19-year-old woman knocked up by a 22-year-old man stigmatized as part of the 'social problem of teenage pregnancy,' but a 22 year-old-woman impregnated by a 19-year-old man isn't?'" He adds, "Isn't the real problem, regardless of the mothers' ages, fathers who fail to support their kids?"

In addition, another "reason to jettison the pejorative idea of 'teenage pregnancy' is that teen motherhood may be a viable strategy for poorer and minority groups in the U.S. and other countries to maximize the survival of their offspring," Males writes, adding, "Because poorer groups tend to die younger, having babies early in life may ensure that grandparents and extended family members will be alive and healthy enough to help raise children." However, studies finding that teenage "motherhood may actually make economic sense for poorer young women" have been "ignored by all sides in the debate," Males writes. He adds, "That teenage motherhood may represent a rational long-term economic choice for poorer women wasn't what activist groups that invoke the 'social costs' of teen pregnancy wanted to hear."

If groups such as Planned Parenthood, the Family Research Council and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy "really want to reduce unwanted teen pregnancies, they should study such factors as poverty, the older ages of male partners, the advantages having children afford poorer young women and the plunge in births among married teens and adults, among other realities," Males writes, concluding, "That would be easier if the stigmatizing concept of 'teenage pregnancy' was not part of our health policy deliberations" (Males, Los Angeles Times, 7/13).