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Teenage pregnancy remains one of the most challenging social issues in the United States. Billions of dollars are spent annually on programs to reduce the scope of teen pregnancy in the country. This paper provides an overview of teenage pregnancy in the U.S., its statistical and financial implications. Governmental laws and issues pertaining to teenage pregnancy are described. Community services for teen pregnancy and their effectiveness are discussed. Keywords: teenage pregnancy, teen, abstinence, sex education, community partnership.
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Teenage pregnancy remains one of the most challenging social issues in the United States. The scope of the teen pregnancy problem can hardly be overstated. The statistical picture of teenage pregnancy in the U.S. is rather controversial. According to the World Future Society (2012), rates of teenage pregnancy in the U.S. have fallen to their 40-year minimum: in 2008, 7% of girls aged 15-19 became pregnant, compared to 49% in 1990. By contrast, Stein (2010) suggests that pregnancy rates among 15-19-year-olds increased at least 3 percent, compared with 1990. Despite these controversies, it is clear that the problem of teenage pregnancy continues to persist.
The U.S. has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). Despite numerous efforts to develop nation-wide teen pregnancy programs, the data concerning teen pregnancy in America remain an object of huge public concern. Reasons why teenage pregnancy is an issue in the U.S. are numerous and diverse. “It could be a lot of things coming together” (Stein, 2010). Because, in most cases, teenage pregnancy is unintended, it represents a substantial financial burden on taxpayers. Recent estimates suggest that the annual costs of unintended pregnancies in the U.S. range between $9.6 and $12.6 billion (Monea & Thomas, 2011). By preventing unintended pregnancies, American taxpayers could save as much as $4.7-6.2 billion annually, including unintended teen pregnancies (Monea & Thomas, 2011). One unintended pregnancy accounts for approximately $9,000, and its prevention could save half of this sum (Monea & Thomas, 2011).
While the financial costs of teenage pregnancy are tremendous, the U.S. keeps spending billions of dollars on the development of teen pregnancy programs. In 2006-2007, funding for abstinence-only programs equaled $176 million per year (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). Over the past 10 years, the total sum of abstinence-only funding reached an unprecedented $1.5 billion (Stein, 2010). Even then, the problem of teen pregnancy remains largely unresolved, raising the question of effectiveness in government spending and sex education initiatives developed at the state and national levels.
There are no government laws directly pertaining to the issue of teenage pregnancy. However, a number of federal laws and initiatives were designed to support abstinence-only sex education programs in the U.S. These regulations include Title V, Section 510 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, Community-Based Abstinence Education, and the Adolescent Family Life Act (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). State policies governing abstinence-only sex education have proved to be ineffective (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). In 2010, federally-funded Labor-Health and Human Services, Education and Other Agencies Bill was signed to provide $114 million for a new Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). Today, programs to prevent teen pregnancy include a vast array of models and frameworks: educational programs, programs to improve access to contraception, multifaceted and multi-component programs altogether are intended to reduce the incidence and risks of pregnancy among 15-19-year-olds. Community programs, such as the Teen Outreach Program and the Summer Training and Education Program, were created to educate teenagers about the risks of inappropriate and the principles of appropriate sexual behaviors. Unfortunately, none of the existing programs ever led to sustained positive effects in teen sexual behaviors (Edwards & Stern, 1998).
As of today, community partnerships have the potential to enhance the quality of teen pregnancy programs. Establishing community partnerships has become a common instrument of dealing with the major social evils. These partnerships come in a variety of forms, from non-binding, informal agreements to formal social unions and organizations (Edwards & Stern, 1998). Bearing in mind the complexity of factors behind the teen pregnancy problem and the resources needed to reduce its scope, community partnerships can become a relevant strategy of teen pregnancy prevention in the U.S.
Teenage pregnancy remains one of the most challenging social problems in the United States. The U.S. has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world, causing a substantial financial burden on taxpayers. Community programs have failed to produce sustained effects in teenagers’ sexual behaviors. At present, community partnerships have the potential to become a relevant strategy of teen pregnancy prevention in the country.