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Psychology in Action

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------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Although the rate of teenage pregnancy has not increased in the past few years, even declining slightly in the mid-1980s, the problem has continued to increase in visibility with various groups offering solutions for the problem. Two demographic factors appear to be important in the changing sociological scene. More teenagers are sexually active at a younger age and fewer marriages are taking place in this age group. By age 18, approximately half of white females and three fourths of African American females have become sexually active, with 19% of white females and 41% of African American females becoming pregnant. In the 1950's, the vast majority of teenage pregnancies occurred within a marriage. The reverse is true today. A trend away from marriage which began in the 1960's is occurring in all Western countries. Many reasons have been given for this shift: a higher value is placed on education; women are more likely to be involved in the labor force; premarital sex is more acceptable today and carries less risk with today's contraceptive choices; and teenage marriages are viewed as risky (and less desirable). Forty percent of all abortions in this country are performed on teenagers (these account for roughly 25% of all teenage pregnancies). At the present time, more abortions are performed on teenagers in the United States than in any other country. How do teenagers feel about being pregnant? They do not often deliberately plan to become pregnant. It just happens. Once pregnant, the typical reaction is to become more accepting of the pregnancy as it evolves. Factors that affect the attitude are: the degree to which pregnancy is seen as interfering with educational ambitions; the perceived support of the family group; and the number of peers who are also parents. As expected, those who seek abortions are more ambitious and studious, come from a better socioeconomic background, have less intense religious feelings, and do not have friends who are having babies. Adoption has not been a popular alternative. What happens to the relationship between the male and female who have created the "issue?" As already noted, the number who are following through with marriage is diminishing. The pregnant teenager who is most likely to marry the father of her child is the older white teenager. For the majority of pregnant teenagers, marriage is postponed indefinitely, especially for the African American woman who anticipates marriage at a later age than in earlier generations, yet is having children earlier. Some women prefer not to tell the male of the pregnancy, especially when it results from rape, a casual relationship, or some other relationship without committed involvement. Others find they have overestimated the degree of involvement on the part of the male who no longer wants to remain part of the situation. In some cases, parents actively discourage any further relationship between their pregnant teenager and the father of the child. In these cases, parents and siblings often remain sources of financial support.
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