Teenage pregnancy is defined by the World Health Organization as female 20 years old and younger that is pregnant. Because the term ‘Teenage pregnancy’ is not specific to teenagers due to the age range can be anyone under the age of Teenage pregnancy is becoming more prevalent in developing countries, South Asia and 20 years the title was changed to adolescent pregnancy. Middle Eastern countries (‘UNFPA Caribbean’, 2019). However, (Mitchell, 2019) noted that in 2018 the Caribbean and Latin America were reported second among countries with adolescent pregnancies.
The United Nations Population Fund for the Caribbean published that teenage pregnancy is one of the leading cause of deaths in teens between the ages 15-19 years old. Because an adolescent’s body is not fully developed to deliver a fully developed child, they face the possibility of developing complication during the deliver and sometimes they don’t survive the process. Also, due to the stigmas associated with adolescent pregnancies, this leads girls to get abortion. Abortion is illegal in the Caribbean and other parts of the world, these girls are exposed to unsafe practices to perform the surgery and die n the process (Mitchell, 2019).
For developing countries adolescence pregnancy normally occur under the following circumstances: social deprivation, peer pressure, rape, and lack sex education and age at marriage. Social deprivation occurs predominantly in deprived areas that has a high level of lower class individuals. Because these persons are normally uneducated or stuck in family cycle of young pregnancies (Berglund et al., 1997). There is peer pressure, normally occurs when a girl is trying to fit in with a group or a person and will do what it takes to be a part of the group. Lack of sex education has plays a role in adolescent pregnancy because girls are easier to manipulate at a younger age, and with a lack of knowledge about se they will believe anything that is used to convince them that sex is ok. Sexual predators pry on the young, they rape them at young ages and these rapes sometimes leads to pregnancy. Rape sometimes occurs in the home by persons who are family members or closely affiliated with the childvictim. In communities that have men as they can also be persons that have secondary relationship with the child. Lastly because some girls get married at a young age ranging from sixteen to nineteen years of age a girl can be pregnant by the age of seventeen or sixteen by her husband.
According to an article by Arlene Martin in the Jamaican Observer dated October 31, 2013, Jamaican teen rate pregnancy in 2008 is the fourth highest in the region. Even though the Jamaica Reproductive Health Survey (RHS) has shown a decline in adolescent (females 15–19 years) pregnancy from 137 in 1975 to 79 in 2002 and 72 in 2008 Jamaica’s adolescence pregnancy has a birth rate of seventy two (72) in every one thousand (1000) adolescent girls. According to report entitled ‘ motherhood in childhood’, there is a challenge of teen pregnancy, total twenty thousand (20000) girls under the age of eighteen (18) years gives birth each day in Jamaica and other developing countries. The United Nation Population Fund ( UNPFA) had compiled a report that stating that the wealthier, educated and urban teens are LESS likely to become pregnant than impoverished, poorly educated rural teens.
In an article by the Jamaica Information Service, teenage pregnancies were trending down because of surveys that were conducted in 2008 the results which showed that teenage pregnancies in the country were high. The Woman Centre of Jamaica Foundation created program geared at educating teens and young adults to practice safe sex “Pinch leave an inch roll” and another campaign that suggested that “abstinence makes sense (‘Teen Pregnancies Trending Down – Jamaica Information Service’, 2019).
A major problem against children in Jamaica that influences adolescence pregnancy is sexual abuse on children. . In 2013 the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) reported that, three thousand three hundred and eighty six (3386) sexual abuse cases were reported, this amount represented a 23% increase over the previous year. From the cases reported it was estimated that ninety two percent (92%) were of girls; moreover nineteen hundred and ten (1,910) of all reported cases of sexual abuse were carnal abuse (sex with children under 16 years old) and there were 349 cases of child rape and forty one per cent (41%) of girls and women aged 15 to 24 who were victims of forced sexual intercourse said it occurred for the first time when they were 15 to 19 years old . (‘UNICEF Jamaica – Get Involved – The Ashley Fund’, 2019).
In 1980 Jamaica’s education regulations stipulates that a girl who becomes pregnant ‘ shall be excluded from attending the institution (public education), but may be permitted to return after the birth of her baby upon the discretion of the education minister. Furthermore education is a powerful tool that will enable a teenage mother to gain personal, financial and social empowerment, providing them with the foundation to improve their life circumstances for themselves and their children. However the absence of an education results in the opposite, discrimination, exclusion and perpetuation of poverty. Additionally “the child care protection act” and international conventions such as the “convention on the discrimination against women,’ to which Jamaica is a signatory, decree that everyone has the right to an education including teen mothers.
However in every policy there is a downfall, in that teen mothers are able to benefit from this second chance of completing a formal education, especially those from lower socio economic situations. Some of the obstacles are financial support, also lack of support from teen’s parents and birth fathers, the teen will eventually drop out of school because there is no child care support or counselling support. In order to ensure that teen mothers receive a secondary level education additional support through social welfare, parenting education and child guidance must be implemented.
Adolescence pregnancies are cause for concern because these young parents are not mentally, financially or emotionally prepared for the responsibilities of parenting. As a result of the lack of parenting skills these adolescence are deprived of a childhood and not in the right frame of mind to guide and support a new-born child. The transition from adolescence pregnancies to early parenthood lead to a cycle of unskilled parents, which in effect translates into socially and emotionally dysfunctional children. The relationship with that a teen mother has with a child that was conceived by rape can be a very difficult interaction, as the young mother is forced to relive the trauma or ordeal that led to the conception of the child and now forced to be a mother to a child that is constant reminder of how they came to exist. Additionally, with the stigmas, prejudice, discrimination and social disapproval that are associated with adolescence pregnancy these individuals may even consider self harm or suicide as a means to lull the pain.
Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation has been helping these young adolescence gain education through different initiatives and also providing an avenue for the young mothers to be integrated back into formal schools and society after the birth of their child. The WCJF has assisted over forty six thousand (4600) women in Jamaica since 1978. This program helps young mother to continue their education while they are pregnant without discrimination from peers in the formal school systems and also to develop a trade to help them provide for their new born. The WCJF also provide counselling for the young fathers as well. They provide classes to help them take care of the baby and counselling to get them in the frame of mind to be a father figure at a young age. In 1994 they initiated a learning program known as Knowledge and Education for Youth (KEY). With help from the government and donations from other private institutions the WCJF has been instrumental in helping women to better understand how to properly care for their babies and provides the basic needs of the mothers and new born.
We can minimize Adolescence pregnancies by having proper sex education classes in schools, Explaining to adolescences the importance of abstaining from sex until they are more mature and can understand fully the implications that are associated with sex, not down playing that it is a very fun interaction. However it is better to wait until they are ready. ensure that adolescence are aware of the importance of using protection or contraceptives as this may help to prevent pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases. Expose some of the myths that is associated with having sex for the first time i.e. there is no way to get pregnant for the first time having sex. And having sex standing up will prevent the semen from reaching the egg or if intercourse is done in the water, the water will wash away the semen therefore you can get pregnant. Also myths for adults i.e. Sex with a virgin can cure sexually transmitted diseases. Ensuring that a relationship is established with the child and parent or guardian for open communication. This may help with allowing the child to express any issues that they are facing and gives the adult a good chance to reassure and help to assist the child or to seek protection. Try not to be aware of the activities in the child’s life. Even though most parents are working class and the strains of working and keeping up with the family may be difficult, parents should find time to know the friends that their child/children are associated with. Have meetings with teachers to know how the child is preforming and for the teacher or teachers to enlighten parents on any activities that may rise for some concern.
However, as social workers under the NASW code of ethics it is crucial to seek Social Justice. Social workers challenge social injustice. Particularly with and on behalf of the vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people in society. Advocate for adolescence to be properly educated about their bodies, the truth about sex and how it impacts their lives and future. Additionally, social workers can approach the issue by carrying out campaigns in school and in communities to teach adolescence the importance of abstaining from sex or the consequences that are associated with the act of having unprotected sex. They can also seek the assistance from teen mothers to see if they are willing to tell their stories to provide them with a first hand glimpse of the difficulties associated with having a child at a young age that was not planned and the other risks that are associated. There needs to be more severe measures placed on males that are identified as the cause for the child that is being carried by these adolescences. Society needs to be aware that our children should be protected as they ae vulnerable and needs the guidance from adults. By working together as a society, if we are aware or suspect any form of abuse to children we should report the matter immediately.
Child abuse is a serious crime that can have profound devastation on our children. This has an immense negative impact on how they associate and relate to society. Please report any case of abuse or suspected child abuse to the nearest police station or The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Toll Free: 1-888- PROTECT (776-8328) (LIME) Fax: 908-2579, Email: [email protected]
- UNFPA Caribbean. (2019). Retrieved 23 November 2019, from https://caribbean.unfpa.org/en
- Mitchell, C. (2019). PAHO/WHO | Latin America and the Caribbean have the second highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world. Retrieved 23 November 2019, from https://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14163:latin-america-and-the-caribbean-have-the-second-highest-adolescent-pregnancy-rates-in-the-world&Itemid=1926&lang=en
- Teen Pregnancies Trending Down – Jamaica Information Service. (2019). Retrieved 23 November 2019, from https://jis.gov.jm/teen-pregnancies-trending/
- UNICEF Jamaica – Get Involved – The Ashley Fund. (2019). Retrieved 26 November 2019, from https://www.unicef.org/jamaica/support_28437.html