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Overview of the problem
During the last years, the United States has made a significant progress in reducing the rates of early pregnancy. Several programs have been elaborated to overcome the problems, and the work of the respective organizations has made a significant contribution into the task of problem resolution. However, statistics indicate that the number of teens becoming pregnant is still very high, and the Latino community demonstrates the highest rates of teen pregnancy. Many studies have been undertaken to find out the root causes of the problem and elaborate the most effective preventive programs.
Brief literature review
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The problem of Latino teen pregnancy has been discussed on different levels, and many studies have been produced by a number of researchers in the fields of sociology, nursing, family therapy, etc. It is especially worth to mention the contribution of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. This organization has created a significant body of research on Latino teen pregnancy and supports further research by offering grants to researchers who can and want to contribute into the matter.
Some materials prepared by The National Campaign have been used for writing this paper, as they present the most updated information on the issue. The research conducted by Liz Sabatiuk and Ruthie Flores is of particular interest since it relies on the results of survey undertaken with the aim of discovering the beliefs and attitudes that influence the behaviors of the targeted audience. The results of research were presented in an article Toward a Common Future: Latino Teens and Adults Speak Out published on The National Campaign official website. An Overview of Latina Teen Pregnancy & Birth Rates has been helpful in discovering the latest trends and finding the most recent statistical data.
The books by Denner & Guzman (2006) and Stanhope & Lancaster (2006) helped in weighing the effects of early pregnancy on the lives of teens. In sum, it should be noted that a serious research has already been undertaken on the issue and many of its aspects were studied by the researches; however, new questions are constantly arising that require further research. Besides, judging by the comparatively little success of efforts on early pregnancy prevention, the stage of practical interpretation of research results needs improvement.
During the nineties, the rates of teen pregnancy had been constantly declining in the USA. However, between 2005 and 2007 the national rate of teen birth increased 5% (Sabatiuk & Flores, 2009, p.4). The problem affects all racial and ethnic groups, but the situation is the most serious among Latino community. At present, more than half of teens of Latino origin get pregnant before the age of 20, which is twice as high as the national average rate (Sabatiuk & Flores, 2009, p.4).
It is particularly worth to note that the situation the Latino community will have a growing importance for the whole nation, since the Latino population grows very fast – in fact, Latino community is already the largest minority group in the USA and it continues to grow steadily. It is predicted that by 2025 one-quarter of all teens in the USA will be Latino (The National Campaign, 2008).
Causes of early pregnancy among Latina teens
In order to elaborate some practical steps that may help in problem resolution, it is necessary to define the factors that influence the behavior of Latino teens and causes of the high rates of early pregnancy in the Latino community.
The reluctance to use contraception is the obvious reason of unplanned pregnancy among teens, and it is necessary to understand the reasons why the use of contraception is not so common among Latino teens. As the study by Sabatiuk and Flores (2009) indicates, the most common reason for not using contraception is the fear that parents might find it out – this reason influenced the decisions of 26% of girls and 16% of boys (p.25). Indeed, it is traditionally believed that teens should not be involved in sexual activity, and many of them are afraid that a conflict with parents is inevitable if they find condones in their child’s bag or pocket.
The second reason of reluctance to use contraception was formulated as the lack of knowledge or education about contraception. 17% of boys and 12% of girls indicated that they have little knowledge about the methods of birth control or protection or do not know how to use those (Sabatiuk & Flores, 2009, p.25). This demonstrates that educational programs already implemented are still not enough and raises the question of communication with parents.
Traditionally it is parents who have a major influence on decisions and behavior of teens, and it is important that they talk with their children about sex and contraception. There is a widespread opinion that the talks about sex are a taboo for Latinos. However, the results of survey do not support this belief. The study by Sabatiuk and Flores (2009) indicates that parents of Latino teens do talk with their children about sex but they are less inclined to talk about contraception and prefer to focus their attention on the general problems of having relationships. 79% of teens reported that they had talks about sex with their parents, but only 49% of respondents indicated that they had talks about contraception (Sabatiuk & Flores, 2009, p.20).
This trend can possibly be attributed to the differences in culture and language. The study showed that teens from Spanish-speaking or bilingual families are more likely to report the lack of knowledge about contraception than the teens from English-speaking families (Sabatiuk & Flores, 2009, pp. 25-26). Therefore, the language barrier seems to have a negative effect on the problem, and it requires the elaboration of appropriate informational resources in Spanish or in two languages.
Consequences of teen pregnancy
Obviously, early pregnancy may have a number of negative effects on the lives of young mothers, and if they were more aware of all possible side effects, it could provide a motivation for delaying the sexual activity or using contraception. As Stanhope and Lancaster (2006) fairly note, “many teens who become pregnant get caught in a cycle of poverty, school failure, and limited life options, and some become homeless” (p. 447).
One of the most obvious and common problems that pregnant teens have to face is the difficulty of continuing their study. Regrettably, statistical data show that about two thirds of Latina teen mothers – 69 percent, to be precise – never finish high school, and those who do have little chance to get a higher education: only 2 percent of teen mothers who gave birth to a baby before the age of 18 have a college degree (Sabatiuk & Flores, 2009, p. 13).
The risk of HIV/AIDS contamination also significantly rises in case of unprotected sex, and teens should remember about that while making decision whether to have sex or not.
Teens should also bear in mind that they should be responsible for children and not only for themselves in case they become pregnant and decide to give birth. Statistics demonstrates that children born to teens are highly likely to experience all the difficulties associated with poverty and health problems compared to the children of mothers who give birth at least in the age of 20-21 (Sabatiuk & Flores, 2009, p. 13).
Still, motherhood does not necessarily mean a set of negative outcomes though the negative sides often significantly overweigh the positive effects for most of teen mothers. However, some of Latina teen mothers experience the emotional uplift and speak about “renewed hope and aspirations for the future both for themselves and for their children”, describe their “hopes and dreams and the strengthening of relationships with family and parents” (Denner & Guzman, 2006, pp. 212-213). However, this emotional uplift often gets crashed when it faces reality and all problems discussed above. While motherhood in general is a good thing, it should take place in due time, and positive sides will be much more numerous for adults who are able to support their families.
Summary and conclusion
Therefore, the problem of teen pregnancy is still the issue of vital importance for the society and the nation. Latino community is already the largest ethnical minority in the United States, and its influence on the life of the nation will grow alongside with the growth of the Latino population. Many researches have already been undertaken to explore the issue. At this stage, Latino teens are more likely to get pregnant than representatives of any other ethnic group, and among the major reasons one should name the lack of knowledge about contraception and lack of communication with parents. The consequences of early pregnancy for Latino teens include school failure, impossibility to get higher education, and poverty. Further steps should be undertaken to broaden the knowledge of Latino teens about sex and to prevent unplanned pregnancy that affects negatively the lives of teen mothers.