You are on page 1of 9

Potential Causes of Teenage/Adolescent Parenthood

An Investigation Explaining Potential Causes that Lead to Teenage Parenthood and their Effects Dominique B. Ricks Norfolk State University

Author Note Dominique B. Ricks, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Norfolk State University. Correspondence concerning this paper should be addressed to Dominique B. Ricks, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Norfolk State University, 700 Park Avenue, Norfolk, VA 23504. E-mail: d.ricks@spartans.nsu.edu.

Potential Causes of Teenage/Adolescent Parenthood

Abstract This paper identifies and defines two separate disciplinary theories in relation to potential causes that lead to teenage parenthood and their effects. After being defined individually, the two theories are then integrated to create a new hybrid theory which more affectively explains the various causes that lead to adolescent parenthood. Albert Banduras Social Learning Theory taken from psychology and Mertons Strain Theory from sociology are used to create a hybrid theory, which holistically explains the factors leading to teenage/adolescent pregnancy and strategies for prevention.

Keywords: Teen, pregnancy, adolescent, strains, social, learning.

Potential Causes of Teenage/Adolescent Parenthood

An Investigation Explaining Potential Causes that Lead to Teenage Parenthood and their Effects Although teen pregnancies had declined by 42% since the 1900s; abortion and birth rates in the United States for teens age 15 to 19 remain among the highest in the industrialized world (NCSL, 2014, p.1). According to NCSL (2014) three in 10 girls will be pregnant at least once before their 20th birthday and one in five teen moms will have a second child during her teen years (p. 1). The effects of adolescent parenthood are rooted in a number of disciplines such as economics, life sciences, psychology, sociology, healthcare, social work, and communications to name a few. Teenage mothers are less likely to finish high school and are more likely to live in poverty, depend on public assistance, and be in poor health than slightly older mothers (NCSL, 2014, p. 1). Not only does teenage pregnancy affect the mothers way of life, but their children are more likely to suffer as a result. Teenage mothers contribute to a significant amount to high school drop-out rates and less than 50% even finish (NCSL, 2014, p. 1). Society is heavily impacted by the effects of teenage parenthood because the youth are the future. Teenage pregnancy results in decreased education levels, less employment opportunities, lower income, increased dependency on welfare, and decreases self-independence. Although there are a number of pregnancy prevention programs, there is still a high level of teenage pregnancies. This paper is not to create another prevention program or to solve the issue; this paper develops a theory that examines the causes and develops an approach to the prevention of adolescent parenthood. I plan to pursue a career as a caseworker serving those in need and teenage pregnancy is a common issue in the lives of the many who seek out these services. If we understand the root of an issue and take an interdisciplinary stance when approaching, we will then find a more legitimate answer or way of prevention. In researching, I came across a lot of statistics, negative outcomes, and prevention programs. None of which gave me the psychological reasoning behind

Potential Causes of Teenage/Adolescent Parenthood

teenage pregnancy or a holistic means of prevention. Albert Banduras Social Learning Theory and Mertons Strain Theory are used to construct an abstract model explaining the causes that lead to teenage parenthood and better ways to approach prevention. Albert Banduras Social Learning Theory Psychology is used to understand the human mind and behaviors. Banduras Social Learning theory posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling (Learning Theories, 2014). This theory explains that we learn through observing others behaviors, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors (Learning Theories, 2014). In relation to our focus, a majority of teen parents have children who grow up to be teenage parents and the cycle continues. This theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences (Learning Theories, 2014). Children of teen parents are less likely to receive as much needed attention to develop cognitively than if parents were older. In regards to behavior, parents are the main source for the childs observation and imitation. Adolescents dont just tend to imitate their parents they also tend to model what they see in the media, this is the environmental affect. Shows such as Teen Mom are sending the message that being a team mom is now a societal. According to Bandura there are three types of models; the live model (actual person demonstrating behavior), symbolic model (character portrayed in film, show, or book), and verbal instructions (description on how to behave) (Cunnia, 2014). Two contributing behaviors that can be learned from modeling are aggression and mortality (Cunnia, 2014). Aggressive teens are more liable to rebel against parents and become involved with members of the opposite sex and think less of themselves. The conditions needed for modeling to be effective are attention, retention, motor reproduction, and motivation. As far as prevention the Social Learning Theory can be very effective for health

Potential Causes of Teenage/Adolescent Parenthood

educators. According to Rex & ReCAPP (2007), SLT can help educators determine why certain learning activities work, and why other activities arent very effective (p.1). There have only been a few programs that have shown significance in regards to change sexual risk taking behavior. The majority of those programs (six out of eight) are based totally or in part on SLT (Rex & ReCAPP, 2007, p. 1.)

Figure 1. Adapted from Albert Banduras Social Learning Model by ReCapp. Copyright 2007-2009 ETR Associates. (Includes the 3 determinants of human behavior) Mertons Strain Theory Mertons strain theory is a way of explaining deviant behavior in sociological terms. It indicates that there is some form of peer pressure or strain on the individual that results in deviant behavior. In the case of young mothers, there has been some home; religious, community, poverty, or schooling factors that caused them to feel strained and result in deviant behaviors such as sexual risk taking. Merton believed that society is set up for people to either

Potential Causes of Teenage/Adolescent Parenthood

conform or deviate. Merton believed that when societal norms, or socially accepted goals (such as the American Dream), place pressure on the individual to conform they force the individual to either work within the structure society has produced, or instead, become members of a deviant subculture in an attempt to achieve those goals (Moffitt, 2014, p. 1). Not everyone has the resources to achieve societys cultural goals (American Dream). This then creates a gap between whats expected and reality, causing the person to feel strained. This person then has five options of adaptation. The first being conformity, and when people lack opportunities to do this, it results in deviant risk taking behaviors in which Merton called innovation. Then there is ritualism, which is prompted by the inability to reach cultural goals, and to work toward less promising goals. Fourth, we have retreatism, which is when all goals are rejected and people cut themselves off from the world. Finally, we have rebels who replace goals and form a counterculture. In relation to teenage parenthood the majority of them come from poverty. Resources to achieve goals are not accessible and in result create inferior feelings. These inferior feelings then result in rebellion or finding other ways to obtain resources, weather through welfare or miscellaneous activities.

Potential Causes of Teenage/Adolescent Parenthood

Figure 2. Adapted from Mertons Strain Theory (Shows his four reactions to the pressure/strain of society and weather they are accepted or result in rebellion) Hybrid Theory The hybrid theory is a combination of Albert Banduras Social Learning Theory and Mertons Strain Theory for a deeper understanding of the causes leading up to teenage parenthood. When concerning Banduras Social Learning Theory it is important to realize the significance put on the upbringing and socialization of children. There is no one or thing more influential than a childs family, especially their parents. The cycle must break in order for us to see major progress. Teenage parents are still learning themselves and in result this takes time away from their children. An approach to prevention ideas is to have programs that involve the child and parent. The fact that their learning together and the child can observe the parent will result in a better relationship between the two and more mature behaviors. In regards to Mertons Strain Theory society is known for out casting those who do not fit the ideal picture, so in a way society promotes deviant behavior. The idea of conformity and the American Dream is outdated. There is a new age and diversity should be seen as good. As a society we need to work on lending a hand and instead of patronizing others for where they lack.

Potential Causes of Teenage/Adolescent Parenthood

Figure 3: Social-Strain Hybrid Theory. (Has the 1st two aspects of Banduras SLT with the incorporation with Mertons American Dream Ideal. Then Banduras third aspect of behavior is integrated with Mertons outcome of acceptance or rebellion against societal norms) Discussion Banduras Social Learning Theory integrated with Mertons Strain theory gives us a better understanding of the causes that lead to teenage parenthood and better approaches to prevention. Early parenthood is a common issue in our society and must be approached lightly and with knowledge in order to be successful. The two distinct theories are meshed beautifully because they identify the problem at home, being learning from our kin, and societys part in it with the pressure of conformity.

Potential Causes of Teenage/Adolescent Parenthood

References Cunnia, E. C. (2014). Social Learning Theory - Web Quest. Retrieved February 8, 2014, from http://erincunia.com/portfolio/MSportfolio/ide621/ide621f03production/socialprocess.htm Learning Theories (2014). Social Learning Theory (Bandura) | Learning Theories. Retrieved February 8, 2014, from http://www.learning-theories.com/social-learning-theorybandura.html Moffitt, K. (2014). Merton's Strain Theory: Definition, Examples & Quiz | Education Portal. Retrieved February 8, 2014, from http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/mertonsstrain-theory-definition-examples-quiz.html#lesson NCSL (2014, January 22). Teen Pregnancy Prevention. Retrieved February 8, 2014, from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/teen-pregnancy-prevention.aspx Rex, P., & ReCAPP (2007). Theories and Approaches. Retrieved 8, 2014, from http://recapp.etr.org/recapp/index.cfm?fuseaction=pages.TheoriesDetail&PageID=380