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The adolescence is commonly considered the most memorable and highly sensitive age period. This is due to the social aspects during ontogeny: adolescence is generally perceived as the transitional period on the way to adulthood, and is not recognized as a prevailing life stage in the cultural and historical perspective. Teenage pregnancy has increased significantly in recent years, causing concern in the community. The psychologists usually use a characterization “children having children” in relation to teen pregnancy, while doctors define this pregnancy in females who have not attained the age of 20 years (Chico et al., 2014).
In present days, teenage pregnancy is an issue of considerable concern because of the far-reaching effects it has on individuals and society. Pregnant teenagers face additional health concerns associated with their ability to endure a healthy pregnancy, especially for girls who are less than 15 years (Chico et al., 2014). Some of the biggest risks associated with teenage pregnancy include premature labor and low birth weight. Furthermore, in highly developed countries, teenage pregnancy is usually associated with numerous health and social issues, namely poverty, lower levels of education, constant stress, poor lifestyle habits, social isolation, and a high risk of dropping out of school. The last one, in its turn, reduces young mothers’ employment prospects (Demby et al., 2014). From the essential quantity of such problems, it follows that there is a high need in society to devise appropriate strategies aimed at reducing the prevalence of teenage pregnancies in the US.
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Although the issue of teenage pregnancy has received enormous interest from researchers, little emphasis has been made on exploring the connections between ethnicity and teenage pregnancies in the US (Demby et al., 2014). Although it has been acknowledged that teenage pregnancy is at the highest level among African Americans and Hispanics when compared to Whites, the specific challenges that ethnic minorities face with respect to teenage pregnancy have not been investigated in depth. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore teenage pregnancy in African Americans relative to other groups in the US, especially with respect to the challenges they face and the age group facing more challenges.
In order to investigate this issue, it is important to state research questions:
- Do African Americans face more challenges than other groups in the US?
- Which age group faces more challenges in teen pregnancy?
- Is teen pregnancy a problem in Dade county schools compared to Broward county schools?
The theoretical framework that will guide the proposed research is health promotion, which is a concept of enabling individuals to exercise health control, thus, improve their health (Chico et al., 2014). The main aim of health promotion is modify the behavior of young people. Additionally, environmental and social interventions can be implemented in order to improve the health outcomes of people in a targeted community. In the context of teenage pregnancy, one of the health promotion strategies is sex education, which refers to educating people on issues associated with human sexuality, anatomy, reproductive health, and safe sex. Sex education can be administered via numerous platforms including public campaigns, formal school curriculum, proper actions of caregivers and parents (Demby et al., 2014). In several cultures of the world teenagers were commonly not provided with information concerning sexuality matters since discussing sexuality was deemed a taboo (Farb et al., 2014). The responsibility for such discussions was usually given only to the parents of the child. However, the progressive education movement that emerged during the late nineteenth century emphasized the importance of sexual education (Koh, 2014; McCracken & Loveless, 2014; McMichael, 2013). The main focus of sex education is promoting safe sexual practices. Teenagers are unlikely to engage in unprotected sex if they have gained sufficient social skills needed to handle sexual relations. In the proposed study, the issue of teenage pregnancy in ethnic minorities will be examined through the lens of sex education. Essentially, there is a possibility that prevalence of teenage pregnancy in ethnic minorities and the larger US population can be attributed to deficient and ineffective sex education targeting teenagers.
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According to Atkins and Wilkins (2013), Devine, Bull, Dreisbach, and Shlay (2014), and Kappeler and Farb (2014), the integrity of moral and sexual education’s content meets the requirements of the real conditions; however, they still do not exist in the United States in an appropriate way. The main difficulty lies in the fact that proper methodology of designing the content of sex education for the US minority groups has not yet been created (Kelsey & Layzer, 2014). Therefore, the process of the sex education in the United States needs to be explored to open other avenues beyond just the classroom context in order to increase exposure of information relating to sexual health. The proposed study will adopt a quantitative approach to exploration of the differences in the extent to which teenagers from various ethnic groups receive sexual education.
One of the most outstanding investigations in the field of the teenage pregnancy in the USA is the work by Demby et al. (2014). The article, which is devoted to the integration of professional work and parenthood in the US, analyzes the “vulnerability” of young mothers in the labor market. This paper also presents the possible trajectories of young mothers returning to the market labor without prejudice to motherhood; moreover, it examines the impact of the economic crisis on labor and parental sphere of life in the USA. The source is of a great importance because the authors reveal the real conditions that often lead the teenagers to the risk groups or vulnerability groups.
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The ideas represented by the authors have found their reflection in the study by Koh (2014). The investigator believes that in the modern society, the traditional model of maternal and child format undergoes major changes corresponding to changes in social relations. The situation can be described as the creation or the search for new models based on the awareness of the needs of both mother and mental features of the child’s development. On the one hand, it creates the preconditions for the revision of stereotypes, for more differentiated and tolerant attitude towards the so-called ‘non-standard’ forms of motherhood (Koh, 2014). They are expected to include the aspect of adolescent motherhood. On the other hand, Koh (2014) states that there is a connection between social needs and measure maternal responsibility for the birth of a child. The author means that if the public is interested in maintaining the health and education of the child, its attention is usually directed at child’s mother. It is because of this fact marginalized teenage mothers appear. They have difficulties in meeting the high requirements of the society to mother (in its initial and stereotyped meaning) (Koh, 2014).
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The moralization of teenage pregnancy was mainly caused by the process of psychologization: it is frequently discussed in terms of social and economic consequences and psychosocial risks. As an illustration of this transition, the model of designing different target groups of social policy is proposed by Kappeler and Farb (2014), Farb et al. (2014) and Polit & Beck (2010) can be applied. In the investigators’ points of view, these groups receive encouragement and assistance, which are dependent on the evaluation of the component (negative or positive) and their degree of influence (strong or weak). Thus, for instance, Kappeler and Farb (2014) single out four groups: strong positive (for example, small and medium enterprises), strong negative (potential competitors of the current government – trade unions, Bohemia), weak positive, or ‘dependent’ (children with disabilities), weak negative, or ‘deviant’ (criminals, drug addicted people). In accordance with the target groups of social policy, young mothers could originally and hypothetically be assigned to the group of ‘deviant,’ but gradually moved into the group of ‘dependent’ (Kappeler & Farb, 2014).
Consequently, the authors have a conviction that the proposed model requires the “network of support services to help them complete high school or postsecondary degrees and gain access to health care, child care, family housing, and other critical support” (Kappeler & Farb, 2014, p. 19). This statement is strongly supported by Farb et al. (2014), who have a conviction that “the most important challenges [in teenage pregnancy] were determining appropriate outcomes, accommodating the many… program models” (Farb et al., 2014). Finally, the authors state that “it is important to keep in mind that” the model proposed “is only one factor in a vast array of other social and economic variables that influence adolescents” (Farb et al., 2014, p. 20). As noted by Atkins and Wilkins (2013), the causes of pregnancy among girls from low-income segments of the population are usually explained with socio-demographic factors (one parent family, low educational level, lack of access to effective contraception). The authors believe that these factors are the most vital in the issue of teen pregnancy; thus, the lack of sexual education has to be overcome.
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McMichael (2014) believes that usage of cultural rather than personal factors to explain the phenomenon of early motherhood should be considered the problem of social inequality; this problem, in its turn, is a potential source of distortion in the study of early parenthood and, consequently, should be given special attention. Thus, the author states that motherhood is authorized only under certain conditions, such as full capacity and financial independence that many women may be unattainable to, regardless of age. At the same time, the author believes that many gender studies emphasize that the way to achieve personal maturity for a woman is an entry into the care relationship with a significant other (man or child) in contrast to the typical male way of development. There, the reference points are education and career.
This idea was actually followed by Kelsey and Layzer (2014), who claimed that the representatives of different social classes have different interpretations of the connection between motherhood and personal maturity. Representatives of the middle class believe that they need to reach maturity before having children, whereas for women from the working class the birth of a child is a way to achieve maturity. This concept is true for many ethnic groups. Additionally, ethnic differences determine degree of satisfaction with their parenting adolescents: self-esteem in African American girls was higher than that of white ones, and the same proved true for teenage fathers. African American teenage fathers perceive their parenthood as a normative cultural experience. Consequently, it is possible to claim that the majority of the investigators of ethnic groups, teenage behavior and pregnancy, are linked with the study by Kappeler and Farb (2014) and Farb et al. (2014).
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Thus, the detailed analysis of the results of investigation can be followed with identification of next main trends in the development of moral and sexual education in the United States: strengthening of state control over the moral and sexual education of adolescents; installation to centralize the development of sex education programs; the expansion of the scale of moral and sexual education of teenagers by giving the humanities and the natural sciences a priority value; the introduction of new courses; strengthening the educational activities of schools through close contact with families and the community; determining the priority of the school in solving these problems.
Additionally, such scholars as Chico et al. (2014) as well as Kelsey and Layzer (2014) believe that African American teenagers (as well as the other ethnic groups’ representatives) are supposed to have additional in-class lessons on the matter of sexual education. Kelsey and Layzer (2014) believe that “grantees implementing a classroom-based curriculum faced challenges in delivering the curriculum within the constraints of school schedules and calendars (program length and size of class)” (Kelsey & Layzer, 2014, p. 50).
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Furthermore, girls living in conditions of severe social exclusion are frequently characterized with a very limited amount of available education and health services. In their situation, early motherhood can be assessed as an effective cultural strategy: the child is born, the mother’s health is not burdened with chronic diseases, and she manages to grow up in a family, in spite of the short duration of life in a given social group. In contrary, this life’s trajectory, McCracken and Loveless (2014) believe, will be probably unchanged if delaying the birth of a child to a later date. It does not allow one to speak of early pregnancy as a rational choice, but studies of pregnant teenagers – students of high school from poor areas of various cities in the US, attending training courses to parenthood, show that approximately 1/3 of pregnancies were planned. Creating psychological and social models of teenage pregnancy in which early parenthood becomes the consequence of an illness is part of a larger debate about the fault and responsibility of society or the woman who became a mother in inappropriate conditions.
Many experts possess the idea of a child and motherhood as a dominant value. It coexists with the personal experiences of a number of social and living political and economic crises of the last decades of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. Currently, the attention to parental resources has shifted from material needs to successful socialization and cognitive development. Early motherhood is not an ethically neutral issue, including professionals involved in research or practical work in this field. Perceptions of teenage mothers are often loaded with meanings related to sexuality, the destruction of the ideals of the “traditional” family, “fatherlessness,” poverty and marginality. Awareness of their own personal principles, fears or expectations related to the problem of early pregnancies, as well as a wide analysis of the social context, will help professional psychologists to improve the quality of their practical work with the girls and their environment.
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Finally, studying the negative consequences of early parenthood, Devine et al. (2014) faces the question: what function the phenomenon of early parenting performs in a society and how a negative attitude of the society to this issue influences teenagers. In the author’s point of view the paradox lies in the fact that it is extremely difficult to describe a ‘typical’ perspective on early motherhood in the USA, even if we restrict ourselves only to the analysis of scientific literature. Since teenage motherhood has been the object of research and advisory practice only in the 1990s, there is a peculiar mix of approaches in Europe and the United States succeeded each other in time. The most significant challenge is to practice awareness of teenagers’ own attitudes and values in relation to early motherhood/fatherhood, as well as affecting wider context: social policy experts’ knowledge, the information from the media and others.
The quantitative research method is adopted for the proposed research. The goal of quantitative method is to perform objective measurements and employ numerical, mathematical, and statistical analysis to the gathered data (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010). The rationale for the use of the quantitative method is to apply the findings of the study to the larger population. When performing a quantitative research, the aim is to investigate relationships between variables. The specific research design is a descriptive one, which is used when seeking to investigate relationships between variables rather than focusing on causality. In this respect, the proposed research focuses on investigating the relationships between ethnicity and teenage pregnancy. The descriptive design is appropriate for describing the challenges faced by teenagers from various ethnic groups with respect to teenage pregnancy. By adopting a quantitative descriptive design, the characteristics of participants relative to teenage pregnancy will be described with accuracy. Three following approaches can be adopted when performing a descriptive study: observation, case study, and survey approach (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010). Finally, in the proposed study, the survey approach will be adopted.
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The setting for the proposed research will be high schools in Dade County and Broward County. In this regard, participants of the research will be recruited from three high schools which will be randomly selected from each county. For each school, the researcher will contact the administration to obtain an organizational consent to use the school for research. The researcher will also request for information about students, especially ones who are currently pregnant and ones who were pregnant in the past. Additionally, information will be requested about those pregnant teenagers and teenage mothers who dropped out for follow up. Determining the precise sample size for the study at this stage is impossible since the study seeks to explore the prevalence of teenage pregnancy in these counties based on ethnicity and age; therefore, limiting the study by sample size is not an appropriate approach. The inclusion criteria for this research is that teenagers will have at least one experience of pregnancy regardless of whether they successfully delivered or not.
After the participants are identified, the next phase of the research will be data collection, which will be executed using self-administered questionnaires. The questionnaire will be utilized to elicit participants’ responses on various issues relating to teenage pregnancy and the challenges teenagers face. Furthermore, basic information such as ethnicity, age group, and grade will be captured in the questionnaire. The current state of education, whether continuing or already dropped out of schools, will be also asked in the questionnaire. In addition, teenagers’ experiences with sex education, such as the source of sex education, participants’ views and attitudes towards sex education will be documented. Open questions will be used to document the challenges that pregnant teens face. The rationale for using questionnaires stems from their effectiveness in gathering vast data amounts with a short span of time when compared to other survey tools such as interviews (Creswell, 2011). In addition, data from questionnaires can easily be coded and analyzed for quantitative research.
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Data Collection Procedures
Before embarking on the data collection process, the parents of the participants will be provided with an informed consent, especially for teenagers under 18 years. A passive consent will be also provided to them. The questionnaire is self-reported; it will be sent to participants, and collected after 48 hours in the selected schools.