Teenage pregnancies are a popular topic in the media and political discourse. and the United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the Western industrialized world (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. 1997). In 2006 the total number of live births per 1.000 women aged IS to 17 was 22.0. and for women who were 18 and 19 the number was 73.0. in both instances the first increase since 1991 (National Center (or Health Statistics. 2(07). What are the primary reasons for the high rates of teenage pregnancy? At the micro level, several issues are most important: (1) many sexually active teenagers do not use contraceptives; (2) teenagers-especially those from some low-income families and/or subordinate racial and ethnic groups-may receive little accurate information about the use of. and problems associated with. contraception; (3) some teenage males (due to a double standard based on the myth that sexual promiscuity is acceptable among males but not females) believe that females should be responsible for contraception; and (4) some teenagers view pregnancy as a sign of male prowess or as a way to gain adult status. At the macro level, structural factors also contribute
to teenage pregnancy rates. Lack of education and employment opportunities in some central-city and rural areas may discourage young people's thoughts of upward mobility that might make early parenting appear less appealing. Likewise. religious and political opposition has resulted in issues relating to reproductive responsibility not being dealt with as openly in the United States as in some other nations. Finally. advertising, films. television programming. magazines.
music. and other forms of media often flaunt the idea of being sexually active without showing the possible consequences of such behavior.
Teen pregnancies have been of concern to analysts who suggest that teenage mothers may be less skilled at parenting. are less likely to complete high school than their counterparts without children. and possess few economic and social supports other than their relatives (Maynard. 1996; Moore. Driscoll. and Lindberg. 1998). In.addition, the increase in births among unmarried teenagers may have negative long-term consequences for mothers and their children. who could have severely limited educational and employment opportunities and a high likelihood of living in poverty. Moreover. the Children's Defense Fond estimates that among those who first gave birth between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. 43 percent will have a second child within three years.
Teenage fathers have largely been left out of the picture. According to the sociologist Brian Robinson (1988). a number of myths exist regarding teenage fathers: (1) they are worldly wise "super studs" who engage in sexual activity early and often. (2) they are "Don [tans" who sexually exploit unsuspecting females. (3) they have "macho" tendencies because they are psychologically inadequate and nei to prove their masculinity. (4) they have few emotional feelings for the women they impregnate. and (S) they are "phantom fathers" who are rarely involved in caring for and rearing their children. However. these assumptions overlook the fact that some teenage males try to be good fathers.