KidsZone • London

Thursday 27th July 2006

Teenage Pregnancy - A Lifestyle Choice?

With teenage pregnancy on a continuous rise, the UK now has the highest number of teenage mums in Europe. The government has made reducing teenage conception rates a priority. These teenagers decision to opt for motherhood is taken over education, training or employment.

New research undertaken by Dr Suzanne Cater and Dr Lester Coleman at the Trust for the Study of Adolescence UK (TSA) indicates that some teenagers plan for pregnancy. These teenage mums viewed their decision of motherhood as a reasonably rational life choice, as a way of advancing and improving their life. The research was conducted on 52 young mothers aged between 13 and 22.

Many mothers featured in the study choose motherhood as they felt that the only future prospects ahead of them were low-paid, dead-end jobs. This decision was embarked on as an opportunity to change their life, gain independence and create a new identity. They felt that this new positive move was the only one within their reach, the only one that they could control.

To date, Government attempts to reduce this rate have focused largely on “unplanned” accidental pregnancies, due to a lack of research and knowledge about teenagers who ‘plan’ their pregnancies. The reality of UK high teenage conception rate is costing the Government over £63 million a year

Contributing Factors

Factors that contribute to teenage pregnancies include, limited employment and training opportunity and a local acceptance of young parenthood.

Choosing to become pregnant was perceived to 'correct' their deprived childhood and alter their lives for the better. The young women spoke candidly about their unsettled background, their dissatisfaction and various problems associated with school.

There is a strong association between teenage pregnancy, poverty and disadvantage.
One young mother aged 18 cited:

“I see being a mum as a job… if I wasn’t a mum I’d don’t think I’d even have a job so it was probably a good decision for me personally”

Overall the study indicated the young parents thought they had effectively improved their lives by becoming independent, gaining a sense of purpose and escaping their own poor family circumstances and seizing a chance to right the ‘wrongs’ of those own childhood.  
A minority of the sample openly regretted the decision to become pregnant. Worse finances and housing, isolation and the sheer hard work were overwhelming for some. This study hopes that by sharing these experiences, it may help other young people make better-informed decisions.

This report can be found on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website, which one of the UK’s largest social policy research and development charities.

To view the full report: click here

written by Siobhan Tattan
(KidsZone • London)