Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting: Findings from a Racially Diverse Sample

By Patricia L. East; Marianne E. Felice | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Introduction and Background

Adolescent childbearing has emerged as one of the most significant social problems facing the United States today. The latest estimates show that approximately 1 million teens become pregnant each year ( Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1994b; Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 1993; Henshaw, 1993; Moore, 1993; National Center for Health Statistics [NCHS], 1993). Among these million teens, approxi. mately half will give birth, slightly over one third will opt for abortions, and the remainder (14%) will have miscarriages or stillbirths. Despite being an advanced and relatively affluent country, teens in the United States have higher rates of pregnancy and childbearing than any other industrialized nation including those with comparable levels of sexual activity ( Henshaw, Kenney, Somberg, & Van Vort, 1989; Jones et al., 1985). This disturbing trend is even more apparent among younger adolescents: Girls 15 and younger are five times more likely to give birth in the United States than in other Western nations ( Moore, Wenk, Hofferth, & Hayes, 1987).

In response to the alarming rates of teenage pregnancy and childbearing, the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFL) was federally legislated in 1981. The AFL had at its core the purpose of alleviating the negative consequences of pregnancy and childbearing for the adolescent parent and her offspring ( Mecklenburg & Thompson, 1983). A secondary goal of the act was to increase our knowledge about the educational, psychosocial, and economic consequences of adolescent pregnancy and childbearing for the adolescent mothers, their children, and their families. The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Teen Obstetric (OB) Follow-Up Study began in 1987 as a grant-funded AFL demonstration program. The original goal of the Teen OB Follow-Up Study was to research factors related to adolescent prenatal care and maternal and infant health outcomes, and factors associated with short-interval repeat pregnancy among teenage mothers. This goal was later broadened to include researching issues related to the qualities of adolescent mothers' parenting and the role of the infant's father in the postpartum period. Analysis of these issues form the core of this book.

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