How Does Culture Influence Teen Pregnancy?
Cultural groups can differ in many ways, including language, values, music, food preferences and religion. Some of these factors can influence the rates of teenage pregnancy, and the decision to terminate the pregnancy or have the baby. In addition to the family’s cultural heritage, teen cultures can exert a significant influence on youth. If you are aware of the factors that can affect the chances that your child might experience a pregnancy during adolescence, you might be better equipped to help your child prevent it.
Adolescence is known for being a time of rebellion, and religious teenagers appear to have less knowledge about, or access to, contraception than their nonreligious peers. This might, in part, explain why researchers find higher pregnancy rates in religious states, according to a 2009 study published in the journal "Reproductive Health." Religious opposition to abortion would mean that more pregnancies are carried to term in religious families 1.
If teenage girls believe their communities support early motherhood as a valid rite of passage, they might not feel any need to prevent pregnancy. On the other hand, when families and communities value education and finding a good job, adolescents seem to place more emphasis on their own achievements, which might protect them from unsafe sexual practices, according to a report titled "Voices of California: A Multicultural Perspective on Teen Pregnancy." A study published in November 2011 by the Institute of Behavioral Science found that this is as true for boys as for girls 3.
The portrayal of teenage pregnancy in the media was addressed in a paper presented at the 2010 proceedings of the New York State Communication Association 5. According to the report, titled "They Don’t Teach This in High School,” teen pregnancy is accepted as normal by pupils in some schools or in some social groups within a school population, and by elements of the media, including some television programs that target teenagers 5. Each of those influences can make it more difficult for parents and educational programs in schools to lower the risk of teenage pregnancy.
What a Parent Can Do
According to the "Voices of California" report, teenagers might rebel against their parents at some point, but they do not stray far from their parents’ values. When children are raised from a young age to place a high value on education, they tend to pick friends that also value education and achievement. Your child’s peer group, therefore, can soften the negative effects of the media and pressure to conform to a lifestyle that includes risky sexual behaviors, according to the "Voices of California" report.
- Reproductive Health Journal: Religiosity and Teen Birth Rates in the United States
- Nurse Practitioner: Cultural Beliefs and Teenage Pregnancy
- Lets Get Real: A Multicultural Perspective on Teen Pregnancy
- Youth & Society: Community Opportunity, Perceptions of Opportunity, and the Odds of an Adolescent Birth
- Proceedings of the New York State Communication Association: They Don’t Teach This in High School
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images