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Teenage pregnancy

Teenage pregnancy: The making and unmaking of a problem

Lisa Arai
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  • Book Info
    Teenage pregnancy
    Book Description:

    In the last decades of the 20th century, successive British governments have regarded adolescent pregnancy and childbearing as a significant public health and social problem. Youthful pregnancy was once tackled by attacking young, single mothers but New Labour, through its Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, linked early pregnancy to social exclusion rather than personal morality and aimed, instead, to reduce teenage pregnancy and increase young mothers' participation in education and employment. However, the problematisation of early pregnancy has been contested, and it has been suggested that teenage mothers have been made scapegoats for wider, often unsettling, social and demographic changes. The re-evaluation of early pregnancy as problematic means that, in some respects, teenage pregnancy has been 'made' and 'unmade' as a problem. Focusing on the period from the late-1990s to the present, Teenage pregnancy examines who is likely to have a baby as a teenager, the consequences of early motherhood and how teenage pregnancy is dealt with in the media. The author argues that society's negative attitude to young mothers is likely to marginalise an already excluded group and that efforts should be focused primarily on supporting young mothers and their children. This comprehensive examination of teenage pregnancy focuses on the situation in the UK, but will be useful for readers in other developed world countries. It will be of interest to students in sociology, social policy, health studies and public health, and also to policy makers and young people's interest groups.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-778-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. List of figures and tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  2. Part One: Making a problem

    • ONE Introduction: ‘shattered lives and blighted futures’
      (pp. 3-18)

      In the last decades of the 20th century successive British governments came to regard teenage pregnancy¹ as a significant public health and social problem. This view was shared, to varying degrees, by the governments of many developed nations, so that by the late 1990s eight of 28 OECD countries were actively intervening to reduce youthful conception and a further 12 countries considered teenage pregnancy to be a minor concern² (Unicef, 2001). In the UK, before and after the election of the New Labour government in 1997, teenage pregnancy was seen as a problem requiring intervention, and the British programme to...

    • TWO Who has a baby as a teenager?
      (pp. 19-38)

      In the UK, public perceptions about the kinds of women who experience pregnancy and motherhood in their adolescence often combine elements of truth (that youthful pregnancy is more common among working-class teenagers, for example) and also aspects of the worst prejudices (that young women connive to become pregnant solely to claim welfare benefits and social housing). In contemporary British society, negative stereotypes about young mothers dominate the popular imagination and teenage mothers are generally considered to be young women deficient in morals and conduct, and even appearance. These popular ideas are not peripheral in young mothers’ lives, as evidenced by...

    • THREE Epidemics, fluctuations and trends: the everyday depiction of teenage pregnancy
      (pp. 39-54)

      Contemporary forms of media are diverse. Internet-based news and information sites, weblogs and podcasts, as well as traditional television programmes, newspapers and magazines, cater for fragmented and varied audiences and have the potential to reach large numbers of people. In this kind of environment, it might be expected that multifaceted and alternative stories of teenage pregnancy and motherhood would emerge. Yet the expansion of media outlets has led not to a greater diversification of stories about teenage pregnancy, but to amultiplicationof negative stories about it and how the ‘problem’ urgently needs to be addressed. In one analysis of...

    • FOUR New Labour, a new approach to teenage pregnancy
      (pp. 55-72)

      The election of the New Labour government in a landslide victory in 1997 marked the end of nearly two decades of Conservative rule. The party was voted into power again in 2001. In May 2005, Labour achieved a historical party first: its third consecutive term in office.

      Early in its first term, the New Labour government made a reduction in teenage pregnancy one of the foci of its reforming policy programme (Evans, 2006). The previous Conservative administration had also attempted to reduce early conceptions, but New Labour’s approach was different. The government made a conscious break with previous political stances...

  3. Part Two: Unmaking a problem

    • FIVE What are the consequences of teenage fertility?
      (pp. 75-90)

      In the academic and policy literature, teenage pregnancy is sometimesassumedto be a problem, with little or no effort expended on explaining why it is considered so (Macintyre and Cunningham-Burley, 1993). In the same way that phenomena such as crime, homelessness and drug addiction are avowedly negative, teenage pregnancy is often held to be (in and of itself) a problem (Breheny and Stephens, 2007a). The fact that teenage pregnancy is so often referred to alongside crime, drugs and so on as if these were all part of the same thing, confirms this and reinforces the association between early conception...

    • SIX Contextualising teenage pregnancy
      (pp. 91-108)

      The belief that teenage pregnancycausesthe poor outcomes that lead to social exclusion has been interrogated by many commentators and there is still no consensus on this. Even where it is accepted that early child bearing might contribute to social exclusion, it appears to have a relatively marginal effect. Given this, the association of teenage pregnancy with social exclusion can seem like a flimsy basis on which to build initiatives such as the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (TPS).

      The reassessment of the effects of early child bearing in Chapter Five, though only an overview, provides some balance to the situation...

    • SEVEN Theorising teenage pregnancy as a problem
      (pp. 109-126)

      Among scholars who question negative depictions of teenage pregnancy, there is a belief, sometimes only half articulated, that there may be other, less politically or socially palatable reasons that underlie anxiety about teenage pregnancy (Luker, 1996; Hoggart, 2003; Selman, 2003). From this perspective, anxiety about teenage pregnancy masks usually deep-seated social fears. Depending on the era and social context, these fears could revolve around young people’s sexuality, welfare dependency, increased competition for scarce resources such as social housing, changes in family structure and a myriad other things (Luker, 1996). In short, teenage mothers are believed to be scapegoats for wider,...

  4. EIGHT Conclusion: no silver bullet. Teenage pregnancy as a problem: overview and recommendations
    (pp. 127-144)

    This book was written to explore the representation of teenage pregnancy as a problem and the ways in which policy makers, academics and the media have responded to it. Primarily focused on the period from the late 1990s on, its starting point was New Labour’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (TPS), introduced to the British public in 1999 viaTeenage Pregnancy(SEU, 1999).

    There are three sections to this final chapter. First, the previous chapters are briefly summarised to provide an overview of the main contents of the book and the key messages arising from it. In the second section, the TPS...