How Does Culture Influence Teen Pregnancy?

By Sheri Oz
Culture can play a major role in whether kids pursue risky behaviors.
Culture can play a major role in whether kids pursue risky behaviors.

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.

Religion

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.

Values

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.

Teen Cultures

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. 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. 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.

About the Author

With an Master of Science in marital and family therapy, Sheri Oz ran a private clinical practice for almost 30 years. Based on her clinical work, she has published a book and many professional articles and book chapters. She has also traveled extensively around the world and has volunteered in her field in China and South Sudan.