Chapter 2 Preface
Many cultures consider large age differences between men and women in romantic relationships acceptable. Western culture has traditionally encouraged relationships between young women and older men for two reasons. First, older men often have more financial resources and are better providers than younger men. Second, young women are more likely to produce healthy children than older women.
Many social commentators have argued that this trend encourages adult men to form sexual relationships with underage girls and increase their risk of pregnancy. According to author Linda Villarosa, “67 percent of teenage mothers are impregnated by men who are over twenty years old. . . . Whether coerced or voluntary, couplings between teenage girls and adult males are many times more likely to result in pregnancy than teen-teen sex.” Villarosa and others maintain that “predatory” adult males pursue young girls and contribute to the problem of teenage pregnancy.
Others argue that research data that blame significantly older men for the majority of teenage pregnancies has been misinterpreted. According to the Urban Institute, 62 percent of teen pregnancies (births to fifteen- to nineteen-yearolds) involve eighteen- or nineteen-year-old mothers. Moreover, only 27 percent of children born to girls who are fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen are fathered by men at least five years older. The institute found that of teenage pregnancies involving unmarried women...
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Older Men Contribute to Teenage Pregnancy
I Grown men who molest very little girls are universally despised. So why doesn’t society cast its collective condemnation at grown men who seduce little teenage girls?
Why do we continue to blame a lack of teenage morals for rising rates of teen pregnancy, even though most of the teens who get pregnant are the victims of something we used to call statutory rape?
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 66.3% of babies born to teenage girls in 1994 were fathered by men age 20 or older.
The Washington Alliance Concerned With School Age Parents conducted a survey in Seattle of mothers ages 12 to 17 in 1995 and found the average age of the fathers was 24.
An article in the American Journal of Public Health in the spring of 1997 cited statistics for California’s teen mothers. In 1993, wrote authors Mike Males and Kenneth S.Y. Chew, two-thirds of school-age teen mothers had a post-school-age partner.
A 15-year-old girl does not have the experience or emotional sophistication to match wits with a 20-year-old man. She might be conned into having sex, but she is incapable of giving consent.
Society used to understand that. Laws against having sex with underage girls were enforced. Men understood that these children were off limits. Communities did not wink as 25-year-old men escorted 17-year-old girls to the prom.
These days laws against...
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Older Men May Not Contribute to Teenage Pregnancy
During the last decade, researchers began questioning the assumption that the sexual partners of teenage mothers were necessarily teenagers themselves. Recently, studies have indicated that a majority of babies born to teenage girls were fathered by adult men. Public attention has become focused on the role of “predatory” adult men in teenage childbearing. This view has led some states, such as California and Florida, to toughen and expand their statutory rape laws. In addition, the 1996 federal welfare reform laws specified, as a strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy, “that States and local jurisdictions should aggressively enforce statutory rape laws.”
While prior research made important contributions showing that adult males father many of the children of adolescent mothers, such studies have tended to treat teenage mothers and their adult partners as a homogenous group. Although D.J. Landry and J.D. Forrest provided a number of measures of age-gaps between fathers and mothers, often just one combination is cited—that of mothers aged 15–19 with partners aged 20 or older; in their study, 65% of 15–19- year-old mothers had a partner aged 20 or older. M. Males and K.S.Y. Chew took a similar conceptual approach, identifying “school-aged” mothers (ages 10–18) and their nonschool- aged partners (19 or older).
Grouping together 15–19-year-olds and their partners ages 20 and older may misrepresent the issue of adolescents...
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Sexual Abuse Contributes to Teenage Pregnancy
As sexual abuse of female children and adolescent pregnancy have gained increasingly widespread public recognition as problems in our society, the relationship between early abuse and teenage pregnancy also has become a focus of attention. However, differences in definitions of abuse, methods of inquiry and study populations have led to discrepant conclusions.
Some studies of adolescent mothers and pregnant adolescents have documented a high prevalence of sexual abuse, ranging from 43% to 62%. However, other studies of pregnant teenagers have reported a sexual abuse prevalence of 15–26%, rates no higher than those most commonly reported for the general population of women.
Whereas data on a small group of college women suggested that those who had been sexually abused were at no higher risk for early pregnancy than their peers who had not been abused, findings from a population-based sample indicated that women who had been abused before age 18 were at increased risk of having an unintended pregnancy. Among a sample of women considered to be at risk for acquiring HIV infection, those who reported sexual abuse were three times as likely as those who had not experienced abuse to become pregnant before 18 years of age. In a study of sexually experienced adolescents, those who had ever been forced to have sexual intercourse were significantly more likely than others to have ever been pregnant.
While it is clear that forced sexual...
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Poor Life Circumstances Contribute to Teenage Pregnancy
In May 1997, with a fanfare of support from the White House and Capitol Hill, a coalition of liberals and conservatives called the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy launched a . . . crusade. Its goals: To increase awareness of the devastating problems faced by adolescent mothers and to cut the teen pregnancy rate one-third by the year 2005.
Americans, the group declared, “see teen pregnancy as a powerful marker of a society gone astray—a clear and compelling example of how our families, communities and common culture are under siege.” Experts warned of the link between teenage childbearing and multigenerational poverty, crime, joblessness and high welfare costs.
Then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted a reception. MTV pledged to develop public service announcements. Scriptwriters and producers for ABC’s daytime television shows offered to help. Black Entertainment Television and the hip hop/rap group Salt-N-Pepa lent a hand.
So serious is the problem in California, which has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any state, that then Governor Pete Wilson . . . launched a massive advertising blitz in 1996 warning teens against the burdens of childbearing. . . .
Somehow, though, when the campaign against teen pregnancy was kicking off in Washington, V. Joseph Hotz’s invitation must have been lost in the mail.
That can happen if you’re the sort of person who tries to sell sour apples to...
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A Lack of Accurate Sex Information Contributes to Teenage Pregnancy
"We know what causes that now,” I said, smiling at her.
“Huh?” she replied in her usually perceptive way. I pointed to her rather stretched pregnant tummy attached to her 16-year-old body.
“Oh, that’s not very funny.”
“No, pregnancy isn’t,” I agreed. “Especially when you’re not yet grown yourself.”
This conversation with teenage girls has taken place way too many times. . . . Parenting Today’s Teen contracted with counties to put independent teens into their own apartments. This was just one of the many girls we served in our program, Life Ready. Half the girls we worked with were pregnant before we started, some after, but all very pregnant. I was saddened as I sat across from another teenager who had lost her childhood and would bring another unfortunate baby into the world unwanted or at least unprepared for by these teens.
Talking with dozens of young ladies who are soon-to-be moms, I questioned them about how—with all the information and free contraception devices available—they had become pregnant.
The answers I heard are as amazing as they are stupid, but these myths still exist among our teens. Hopefully, this will encourage [everyone] to educate teens . . . about the realities of sex and one of its consequences—pregnancy.
I was told by one young lady she just could not believe she was pregnant.
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