Peer Pressure in Teenage Pregnancyby Erin Schreiner
Although teen pregnancy rates have fallen in the past several decades, the problem still wreaks havoc on the lives of teens. One factor that leads teen girls to become pregnant is peer pressure. Many teens sexualize themselves or engage in behavior for which they are not yet ready because they want to fit in or be popular. If your child is approaching her teenage years, consider the impact that peer pressure could have on her decisions, and the potential ramifications of this impact.
Prevalence of Teen Sex
While most parents rest easier at night, thinking that their teens are not having sex, studies disprove this thought. As WebMD reports, approximately 1 in 3 children between the ages of 14 and 15 report having sex at least once. Perhaps even more disturbingly, in a study of sexually active teens, 30 percent report not using birth control the last time they had sex.
Sexual Pressure and Gender
When it comes to feeling the pressure to have sex, gender does make a difference. The "Psychology Today" website reports that 30 percent of boys report that they felt pressure from their peers to engage in sexual activity. Among girls, 23 percent reported feeling the same pressure. As girls are the gender most directly impacted by teen pregnancy, this finding indicates that peer pressure is not as directly responsible for pregnancy resulting from experimentation as some may think.
Natural Drive to Conform
Peer pressure has long been a hot-button topic. One of the reasons that peer pressure is so able to drive teens to things, like becoming pregnant, is that teens are programmed to conform, reports WebMD. During adolescence, children develop their sense of self. Part of this development involves aping others, making teens ideal candidates for giving in to the norm and going with the flow. This natural drive presents even more of a challenge to parents who wish to steer their children in the right direction.
The Teen Pregnancy Fad
Some argue that teen pregnancy is being glamorized in contemporary society, giving teens a false sense of what it means to be a teen parent. Shows like MTV's "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" follow the exploits of pregnant teens and teen mothers. While both shows purportedly aim to teach teens the ills of teen pregnancy, and contain messages and information about pregnancy prevention, many argue that the programs actually make being a teen parent seem exciting. In addition, some clothing stores aimed directly at teens, like Forever 21, have started selling maternity clothes. While these stores argue that they are simply meeting customer demand, others contend that they are making being a young mom appear a fashionable thing to do.
Preventing the Pressure
While getting your voice heard is challenging, it can be done, reports WebMD. To get your anti-pregnancy message heard, focus on listening to your child and not immediately jumping to punishments if she tells you about something she has done wrong. If, for example, she tells you that she tried cigarettes with some friends, and you immediately ground her, she certainly won't come to you when she has her first sexual relationship. If you notice that your teen's friends appear to be engaging in risky behavior, or if one of them becomes pregnant, it is wise to put even more emphasis on teaching your teen the ills of teen pregnancy.
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