It is stress that drives a young adolescent into a relationship. Confirmation that she has conceived a child brings on added stress. She is too young to face this emotional challenge and unable to decide what to do regarding the pregnancy. Furthermore, a large number of negative effects follow a teenage pregnancy, a major one being social stigma. This has been proved by research studies galore.
To go into details about the traumatic effects of teenage pregnancy-
(1) What is an adolescent’s age? It is somewhere between 10 and 19 years. Getting pregnant at this age can be life-threatening. Mortality rates are four times higher for a pregnant teenager in the age bracket of 15 to 19, than for women aged between 25 and 29 years. The unborn child is at increased risk too. For girls falling into the age bracket of 10 to 14, it is even worse. Should they have live births, the infant is likely to die soon or face serious health challenges.
(2) Teenage pregnancy makes it difficult for the girl to continue with her education. The drop-out rate is therefore pretty high. Even if they come from similar backgrounds, 61% of adolescents wait till the age of 20 to 21 to have babies and therefore complete high school. In contrast are those girls who give birth to children before they have completed 18 years of age; only 41% become high school graduates.
(3) Even after giving birth, the young mother finds it difficult to keep up with her peers where academic performance is concerned. She is forced to repeat classes and exhibits poor scoring in standardized tests. Ultimately, she may never graduate at all.
(4) Finding a regular source of income becomes difficult as every job position demands certain skills which are markedly lacking because of not having a proper education.
(5) The only alternative left after a teenage pregnancy is to take public assistance, that is, go on welfare. Most of these teens are unmarried and over 75% of them ask for support within five years of becoming mothers. Some researchers feel that poverty-ridden teenagers welcome pregnancy so that they can get financial support from the child’s father; this is supposed to be a survival mechanism to escape hopeless poverty.
(6) Children born to such young parents often display retarded psycho-social development and malnutritional effects. This is because a teenage mother lacks parenting skills. She fails to understand what her child needs and does not realize the importance of smiling, touching or verbally communicating with her child. Anger against society is taken out on the child and physical abuse is possible.
(7) When grown up, the young ones of these ‘teen mothers’ exhibit behavioral tendencies which are deemed socially unacceptable. This is in fact the worst effect of a teenage pregnancy. The son can become a criminal offender and land up in prison – the rate is three times more for these boys than normal criminals. The daughter may follow in the footsteps of her mother and become a victim of teenage pregnancy herself.