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The Major Factors of Teenage Pregnancy Research Paper

An Inside Look at Abused Children and Teen Pregnancy Child Development


It is accepted by many that abused children are more likely to experience teen pregnancy than non-abused teenagers. Researchers single out several major reasons for that trend. The present paper dwells upon these reasons in detail. Thus, low self-esteem of abused children is regarded as the major factor contributing to the development of the existing trend.

Other factors include poverty, alcohol/drug use, sexual abuse, ineffectiveness of programs and incentives aimed at reducing the rate of teen pregnancy. Clearly, these factors are interrelated, so it is important to address all of these issues to solve the problem.

Teenage Pregnancy

Many people still think that teen pregnancy is simply an educational concern which should be touched upon in terms of sexual education of US children and teenagers. However, many researchers, scholars, educators, and officials agree that teen pregnancy is a social and economic issue which should be addressed.

Thus, it is estimated that teen pregnancy, i.e. pregnancy before 18, costs the United States about nine billion dollars each year (Brace, Hall, & Hunt, 2008).

Children of teen parents, mothers in the vast majority of cases, are often abused and neglected; they often underperform at school, have a myriad of health problems, and have problems with drugs and alcohol.

Notably, teen pregnancy rates have been declining since the 1980’s nationwide. Brace et al. (2008) reports that the rate was about 116 per 1000 in 1990 and it was slightly over 40 per 1000 in 2004. It is necessary to note that such rates differ from state to state.

For instance, Alton (2011) points out that a decrease was not that significant in Texas. The researcher provides the following data: teen pregnancy rates decreased 37% nationwide and this rate decreased 25% in Texas (Alton, 2011). The same trends can be traced in some other states (e.g. Georgia).

Importantly, the teen pregnancy rate is significantly higher in teenagers who have been abused (Saewyc, Magee, & Pettingell, 2004). Saewyc et al. (2004) claim that different researchers provide quite different data, though all surveys show that there is a clear link between abuse and teen pregnancy.

It is important to note that the US government as well as various non-governmental organizations try to work out possible ways to solve the problem, or, at least, are trying to help teen mothers and especially the most vulnerable group, i.e. abused teenagers. Of course, to address the issue it is necessary to know the major causes of the problem.

It is possible to single out several factors which can be ‘responsible’ for the existing trend. Thus, such factors as low self-esteem, which is the major factor, alcohol and drug abuse, poverty and violence, are all associated with teen pregnancy.

It is also necessary to note that ineffective strategies used to address the problem also contribute to the development of the existing trends. The present paper dwells upon the factors mentioned above in detail. Analysis of the influence of these factors will also be provided.

The Major Factor: Low Self-Esteem

Mooney, Knox, & Schacht, (2010) states that low self-esteem is often associated with abused children and are one of the factors that shape teenagers’ sexual behavioral patterns and lead to teen pregnancy. Notably, Berger (2008) claims that self-esteem is usually rather high during early childhood in many children. However, when it comes to abused children trends are a bit different.

Self-esteem decreases if a child is being abused. In the first place, abuse in early childhood leads to various diseases and disabilities (Mooney et al., 2010). For instance, the researchers provide an example of typical abuse:

Shaken baby syndrome, whereby a caregiver shakes a baby to the point of causing the child to experience brain or retinal hemorrhage, most often occurs in response to a baby typically younger than six months, who will not stop crying. (Mooney et al., 2010, p. 163)

Shaken baby syndrome sufferer’s often experience various disabilities. Of course, there are numerous other cases when parents or family members resort to violence when dealing with a child. This abuse leads to physical and, more importantly, to psychological trauma. This trauma makes abused teenagers feel they are different.

Of course, when a child or especially a teenager understands that he/she is not like others, the child or teenager develops low self-esteem. On one hand, children suffering from physical disabilities are often mocked at. They also need more effort to keep up with children without disabilities.

Therefore, they have more stresses in their academic life. On the other hand, if the teenager knows that disability was caused by a parent or a family member, the teenager feels anger or even hatred and distrust. Such teenagers often think they cannot evoke positive feelings (love, friendship, etc.) if their own parents or a family member have abused or used to abuse them (Berger, 2008).

It is important to note that these teenagers often have a few or no friends. First of all, abused teenagers feel ashamed of the fact they are being abused. They can hardly share this experience with their friends. They often cannot bring their friends home.

All this makes it difficult to maintain friendly relationships which require sincerity. Secondly, abused teenagers often feel they are more experienced in many ways. This is especially true when it comes to sexually abused teenagers.

This fact could be supported by ideas presented in the research carried out by Saewyc et al. (2004), who indicate that “…those who had been sexually abused were significantly more likely than their nonabused peers to report pregnancy involvement and risk behaviors associated with teenage pregnancy” (Saewyc et al., 2004, p. 101).

Admittedly, such teenagers understand that they know and have experienced what other teenagers have no idea about. This negative experience makes abused teenagers avoid friendships with other, usually non-abused, children. Clearly, lack of friends contributes to the development of low self-esteem as teenagers sink into a shell of distrust.

Low self-esteem is the major outcome, and the need to integrate into society, which, in its turn, leads to teen pregnancy. As has been mentioned above, abused children do not trust people. However, in the majority of cases these children seek for help, support and understanding as humans are social creatures.

These teenagers want to prove they can be a part of the society or at least a particular community or some subgroups since “… when a teenager has been sexually exploited both within and outside the family, who can be trusted to help?” (Saewyc et al., 2004, p. 102).

Sex is often seen as a sign of adulthood and ‘toughness’ (Saewyc et al., 2004).. Thus, teenagers often try to start sexual life either to prove they are adult enough or to prove they are worth being a part of a specific community. It is important to note that females are especially vulnerable as they often regard sex as a way to ‘keep’ a male.

These females have a very low self-esteem and, thus, they think only sex can help them keep their boyfriends. They do not deem that their own individuality, characteristic features, or their own achievements are enough to build proper relationships with males who will cherish them instead of using them.

As has been mentioned above, low self-esteem is the major factor contributing to the change of sexual behavior. It is also necessary to point out that this factor is closely connected with other factors which will be analyzed below.

More so, all these factors (low self-esteem, poverty and neglect, sexual abuse, alcohol/drug abuse) are interrelated. In many cases, teen pregnancy is the result of a group of these factors.

Other Factors


It has been acknowledged that social status of a family influences child development greatly (Saewyc et al., 2004; Berger, 2008; Mooney et al., 2010). Children coming from such families are often abused as parents often try to wreak their anger on their children.

Apart from this, such children are often neglected as their parents do not have time to raise the children, as they need to work to support the family.

As has been mentioned above, these children are often neglected. Their parents do not talk to them and do not touch upon such themes as proper sexual behavior. Of course, teenagers find out a lot about sexual development and sexual behavior at school.

However, in the majority of cases teenagers adopt rules existing in their peer communities. The lack of parental support makes teenagers feel neglected and helpless. They start believing they have no future, in other words they develop low self-esteem.

Apart from unfavorable conditions at home, children coming from poor families have problems at school. Teenagers coming from poor families often feel frustrated at school as they underperform. More so, these teenagers lack commitment, and they are not ambitious.

They often think they cannot compete with other students and do not even think of higher education. These teenagers feel helpless and they want to find some sort of consolation in sex and developing relationships with peers.

Such authors as Scher (2008), Mooney et al. (2010) Alton (2011) state that it is also important to add that teenage pregnancy leads to increase of rates of poverty as teen parents often have low income and fewer opportunities.

Psychological Traumas Caused by Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is another factor that leads to teen pregnancy. Thus, various surveys suggest that there is a certain correlation between sexual abuse and teen pregnancy.

Saewyc et al. (2004) reports that teenagers with a history of sexual abuse (incest as well as nonfamilial abuse) are more likely to be involved in teen pregnancy. Interestingly, researchers claim that males are more vulnerable in this group of teenagers:

The prevalence of pregnancy involvement among abused teenagers was substantially greater in males than in females. Among males, those who had experienced both incest and nonfamilial abuse had the highest proportion indicating pregnancy involvement; almost two in three such males in 1992, and one in three in 1998, had gotten someone pregnant. (Saewyc et al., 2004, p. 101)

One of the major reasons for such trends is that males find it more difficult to cope with their psychological trauma associated with the sexual abuse, which leads abused male teenagers to alcohol and drug abuse.

The correlation between alcohol/drugs abuse and teen pregnancy will be discussed below, so at this point it is possible to focus on other outcomes of sexual abuse.

Saewyc et al. (2004) singled out cultural factors which can lead to teen pregnancy. Thus, researchers mention that irrespective of certain liberalization of sexual identity conventions, homosexuality is still condemned. Thus, same-gender sexual abuse makes teenage males try to prove they are heterosexual.

Fathering a child is regarded as a sign of heterosexuality. However, even if males were sexually abused by older females, abused teenagers can try to father a child as this is seen as a sign of their masculinity as it is believed that males should initiate any relationship, especially sexual intercourse (Saewyc et al., 2004).

Alcohol/Drugs Abuse

Admittedly, substance abuse is often associated with teen pregnancy. Teenagers who use alcohol or drugs before sexual intercourse are much more reckless. They do not usually use condoms or other birth control means (Saewyc et al., 2004). It has been estimated that abused teenagers are more likely to use alcohol and drugs:

Some 27–34% of abused females reported regularly using alcohol or other drugs before intercourse, compared with 26% of non-abused adolescents… For males, the findings were similar to those for females, but the differences were more pronounced. (Saewyc et al., 2004, p. 101)

Clearly, abused teenagers start using alcohol and drugs to find consolation and some sort of relaxation. Many abused children leave their homes, which is often associated with drug or alcohol abuse.

It is also important to note that the use of drugs or alcohol is often associated with poverty and low self-esteem. Using drugs or alcohol makes teenagers feel they fit in with the society or, at least, some part of it. The use of drugs or alcohol helps teenagers to become more confident because they feel relaxed and they often act irresponsibly.

Ineffective Programs

Finally, ineffective programs aimed at addressing the problem also contribute to increase of teen pregnancy rates (Scher, 2008). As has been mentioned above, the rate of teen pregnancy is decreasing steadily. Nonetheless, the rate is still too high, especially in some states.

Alton (2011) states that various programs and incentives fail because of large populations and the necessity to cover large areas. The programs simply cannot cover all stakeholders.

Furthermore, Alton (2011) notes that the lack of skilled employees is also a big problem for various programs and incentives. Finally, some programs simply fail to address the problem as they fail to single out major factors contributing to the increase of teen pregnancy rate.

Abused children are likely to experience teen pregnancy due to several major factors such as low self-esteem, poverty, traumas associated with sexual abuse, alcohol and/or drug use, and ineffective programs aimed at reducing the rate of teen pregnancy.

It is necessary to note that these factors are closely connected and even interrelated. However, self-esteem is still the major factor even if a teenager is not affected by some of the other factors mentioned above; low self-esteem is always present in teen parents.

Therefore, to reduce the teen pregnancy rate, it is important to take into account all the factors mentioned above.

Of course, the US government, local authorities, educators, parents should understand that abused children require special attention as they are especially vulnerable. This group should be involved in various projects aimed at raising awareness about consequences of certain sexual behavior and teen pregnancy.

Abused children should feel support of their parent(s), peers and the entire society. They should feel a part of the society. This will help them improve their self-esteem and avoid various problems, including teen pregnancy.


Alton, F.L. (2011). The challenge of preventing teen pregnancy in Texas. Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, 2(2). Retrieved from

Berger, K.S. (2008). The developing person through childhood and adolescence. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Brace, A.M., Hall, M. & Hunt, B.P. (2008). The social, economic, and health costs of unintended teen pregnancy: The circle of intervention program in Troup County, Georgia. Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association, 1(1), 33-46.

Mooney, L.A., Knox, D. & Schacht, C. (2010). Understanding social problems. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Saewyc, E.M., Magee, L.L. & Pettingell, S.E. (2004). Teenage pregnancy and associated risk behaviors among sexually abused adolescents. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 36(3), 98–105.

Scher, L.S. (2008). What do we know about the effectiveness of programs aimed at reducing teen sexual risk-taking. In S.D. Hoffman & R.A. Maynard (Eds.), Kids having kids: Economic costs & social consequences of teen pregnancy (pp. 403–435). Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

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