Teen pregnancy has been an issue for decades. In fact, the teen pregnancy crisis which ran rampant in the 1990s had created such an uproar that it was determined a revolution was in order. Billboard ads and commercials were crafted depicting the notion that ‘kids are out here having kids’, and made it widely known that this was a major issue. Studies show that within the past year, only two decades after the epidemic, U.S. teen pregnancy rates among women of color have reached an all-time low, and are still steadily decreasing to this day (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
For years, women of color have been ridiculed for having children at a young age. As aforementioned, this was especially true in the 90s, where teen pregnancy rates of African Americans had hit astronomical, never-before-seen levels. Obviously, this is no secret, as a great number of us either have parents that were young at the time of our own birth, or at the very least we have many friends and associates that were birthed from young parents themselves. However, now that the tide has changed, there will be a great sociological impact.
The narrative of the young pregnant woman of color led minorities as a whole to be considered “careless”, “immature”, and “irresponsible”. Speaking personally, my own mother, who actually happened to be 27 years old herself when she gave birth to my older brother, had nurses who initially abstained from letting her hold and feed him as they had made the false assumption, solely judging off her appearance, that she was only about 16 or 17 (my mother is short and has always looked quite younger than her age). They had deemed her to be ill-equipped to be able to properly take care of him. Though it was not the reality of my mother specifically, reputation and stereotypes negatively impacted her own life experiences.
This newfound historic low of teen pregnancy can be attributed to multiple causes: the advent of television shows such as “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom”, which are reality shows that showcase young couples and single mothers and the difficulties they face in their day-to-day lives as they attempt to take care of their children; contraceptives are more readily available and accessible than they’ve ever been; and new and improved sexual education programs that focus on teaching youth not just what safe sex is, but also the major lasting effects on one’s financial well-being and the child’s development, just to name a few.
Hopefully, as the average age of black mothers increase, we will also see a rise in the amount of two parent homes. Most of the time when our young teenage women are catapulted into adulthood due to the birth of a child, the young fathers lack the financial means and sense of responsibility to take care of a child, and thus desert the mother and the child in order to make their own lives easier. Such abandonment not only makes the mother’s life twice as hard, but also leaves lifelong negative imprints on the child’s mental and emotional framework, regardless if they actually overcome those imprints or not.
There are far too many young black people in our society that either have never met their fathers or have fathers that disappear for years at a time and only show up when it’s convenient for them. Although fathers can most definitely still be deadbeats even when they have kids in their mid-20s or 30s, it would be remiss to say that age doesn’t have at least somewhat of an impact on their likelihood of staying to take care of the child.
All in all, only good things may come from this new all-time low rate of teen pregnancy. I believe with older, more experienced and readily equipped parents, our future children will be able to grow up with greater confidence and stability, which in turn creates a brighter outlook for their prospective lives. Hopefully this trend continues, and the days where adolescent parenthood is a normality can be left far in the past.